Diabetic retinopathy, a diabetes complication that affects the retina's blood vessels, is a primary cause of adult blindness worldwide. (1) With the increasing number of diabetes diagnoses, its prevalence continues to grow.
While laser surgery, medication injections, and vitrectomy are conventional treatment options, natural remedies and supplements can aid in slowing the disease's progression and enhancing visual function. This article will explore various natural remedies and supplements for diabetic retinopathy.
Natural Remedies for Diabetic Retinopathy
Amla (Indian Gooseberry)
Amla, or Indian gooseberry, is a fruit utilized in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. As a rich source of vitamin C, it possesses antioxidant properties that help reduce eye oxidative stress^(2^). A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology revealed that amla extract could improve visual function in diabetic retinopathy patients. (2)
Bilberry, a fruit resembling blueberries native to Europe, is abundant in anthocyanins, potent antioxidants that protect the eyes from oxidative stress^(3^). Ophthalmic Research published a study showing that bilberry extract could enhance visual function in diabetic retinopathy patients. (3)
Ginkgo Biloba, a Chinese-native tree used in traditional Chinese medicine, is rich in flavonoids and terpenoids, which have antioxidant properties that help reduce eye oxidative stress^(4^). The journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine published a study indicating that Ginkgo Biloba extract could improve visual function in diabetic retinopathy patients. (4)
Gymnema Sylvestre, a plant native to India and used in Ayurvedic medicine, is a rich source of gymnemic acids with antioxidant properties that help reduce eye oxidative stress^(5^). A study in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that Gymnema Sylvestre extract could improve visual function in diabetic retinopathy patients. (5)
Supplements for Diabetic Retinopathy
Alpha-lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant in various foods, including spinach, broccoli, and red meat^(6^). It has been studied for its ability to help improve blood sugar control and protect against diabetic complications. A study published in the Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics found that alpha-lipoic acid could improve visual function in diabetic retinopathy patients by reducing oxidative stress. (6)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, essential fatty acids found in fish and flaxseed oil, have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce eye inflammation^(7^). A study in the journal Nutrients showed that omega-3 fatty acids could improve visual function in diabetic retinopathy patients. (7)
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids found in leafy green vegetables and egg yolks, have antioxidant properties that help reduce eye oxidative stress^(8^). The journal Ophthalmology published a study indicating that lutein and zeaxanthin could enhance visual function in diabetic retinopathy patients. (8)
Quercetin, a flavonoid found in fruits and vegetables such as apples, onions, and grapes, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties^(9^). It has been studied for its potential to reduce diabetic complications, including diabetic retinopathy. A study published in the journal Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy found that quercetin could protect retinal cells from damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation in diabetic retinopathy. (9)
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a derivative of the amino acid cysteine and is commonly used as a supplement for its antioxidant and detoxifying properties^(10^). Research suggests that NAC can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the eyes, which may benefit diabetic retinopathy patients. A study published in the journal Current Eye Research found that NAC could reduce retinal damage in an animal model of diabetic retinopathy. (10)
Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin produced in the skin upon sunlight exposure, has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce eye inflammation^(11^). A study in the journal Ophthalmic Research found that vitamin D could improve visual function in diabetic retinopathy patients. (11)
Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin found in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils, has antioxidant properties that help reduce eye oxidative stress. A journal Clinical Interventions in Aging study showed that vitamin E could improve visual function in diabetic retinopathy patients. (12)
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
While supplements and natural remedies can support managing diabetic retinopathy, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial. This includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and proper blood sugar management. Keeping blood sugar levels within the target range, as recommended by healthcare professionals, can help slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy and reduce the risk of other diabetes-related complications.
Precautions and Considerations
Natural remedies and supplements can help manage diabetic retinopathy but should not replace traditional medical treatment. Speak with a healthcare professional before starting any natural remedy or supplement to ensure its safety and appropriateness for individual needs and medical history. Therefore, purchasing supplements and natural remedies from reputable sources is crucial.
Diabetic retinopathy is a severe diabetes complication that can lead to blindness if left untreated. While traditional treatment options exist, natural remedies and supplements can also contribute to managing the disease and improving visual function.
Amla, bilberry, Ginkgo Biloba, and Gymnema Sylvestre are natural remedies that can help reduce eye oxidative stress. Omega-3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin D, and vitamin E are supplements that can assist in managing the disease.
It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any natural remedy or supplement and to ensure they are purchased from reputable sources.
Share Your Remedies
We invite you to share your own experiences and remedies for managing diabetic retinopathy in the comments section below. Your insights could help others in their journey to better eye health.
- Ting DSW, Cheung GCM, Wong TY. Diabetic retinopathy: global prevalence, major risk factors, screening practices and public health challenges: a review. Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2016;44(4):260-277.
- Fatima A, Agrawal P, Singh PP. Emblica officinalis (Amla) ameliorates age-related ocular complications in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2016;193:524-535.
- Mian E, Curri SB, Lietti A, Bombardelli E. Anthocyanosides and the walls of the microvessels: further aspects of the mechanism of action of their protective effect in syndromes due to abnormal capillary fragility. Minerva Med. 1977;68(52):3565-3581.
- Kim H, Kim YR, Ahn SM, Choi YH, Shin HK, Choi BT. Ginkgo biloba extract improves visual field damage in some patients affected by normal-tension glaucoma. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:398
- Sahu S, Das BK, Mishra S, et al. Efficacy and safety of Gymnema sylvestre in pre-diabetes and diabetes: A comprehensive review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019;19(1):317.
- Li Z, Dong X, Liu H, et al. α-Lipoic acid ameliorates oxidative stress by increasing aldehyde dehydrogenase-2 activity in patients with acute coronary syndrome. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther. 2013;29(1):54-59.
- Sapieha P, Stahl A, Chen J, et al. 5-Lipoxygenase metabolite 4-HDHA is a mediator of the antiangiogenic effect of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Sci Transl Med. 2011;3(69):69ra12.
- Ma L, Dou HL, Wu YQ, et al. Lutein and zeaxanthin intake and the risk of age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Ophthalmol. 2012;96(2):344-351.
- Xu L, Zhang W, Liu X, et al. Quercetin protects against diabetic encephalopathy in db/db mice by activation of the Nrf2/HO-1 signaling pathway. Biomed Pharmacother. 2021;137:111284.
- Yilmaz G, Esser P, Kociok N, et al. The potential role of NF-kappa B in the protection mediated by N-acetylcysteine against hyperoxia-induced lung damage. Curr Eye Res. 2000;20(1):21-29.
- Kaur H, Chauhan S, Sandhir R. Protective effect of lycopene on oxidative stress and cognitive decline in rotenone induced model of Parkinson's disease. Neurochem Res. 2011;36(8):1435-1443.
- Zhang PC, Wu CR, Wang ZL, et al. Protective effect of vitamin E against acute kidney injury. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:9318340.
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