Diabetes is one of the four leading causes of vision loss in the United States. Although this is a serious and common complication, many people don’t know about the link between vision loss, carbs and diabetes.
Luckily, in spite of this connection between carbs and diabetes, people suffering from symptoms of diabetes can take measures to prevent vision loss. The Blinded Veterans’ Association of South Texas reports that controlling blood glucose levels may reduce the risk of ocular and renal complications by up to 70 percent.
Carbs and Diabetes Related Vision Loss
New studies reveal that carbohydrates influence age-related macular degeneration (AMD). According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, AMD is the most common cause of vision loss in older adults.
This link between carbohydrates and AMD was the result of an age-related eye disease study that tracked nearly 5,000 participants between 55 and 80 years of age. The study found that a diet with a high glycemic index (high percentage of simple carbs that rapidly elevate blood sugar levels) increases the risk of AMD. Foods with a high glycemic index include:
- White bread
- White pasta
- White rice.
Researchers speculate that these simple carbohydrates may deliver too much glucose too quickly to the eye tissue, potentially compromising the eyes’ ability to properly use the carbohydrates. This may be especially problematic for diabetics who already have difficulty regulating their blood glucose levels, even while counting carbs.
Other Eye-Related Symptoms of Diabetes
In addition to AMD, other vision-related complications and symptoms of diabetes may include:
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Macular damage
- Secondary glaucoma
- Vitreous hemorrhage.
Symptoms of Diabetes-Related Vision Loss
Diabetics can protect themselves by being aware of early signs of vision loss. Common symptoms of diabetes-related vision loss include:
- Blurred vision
- Changes in refraction
- Faulty color vision or reduced sensitivity to color
- Hazy vision
- Sensitivity to glare
- Variable vision or focus.
Contact your doctor immediately if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms. Catching problems early enough may prevent further vision loss.
Preventing Vision Loss and Other Complications
Diabetics may follow these tips in order to keep their eyes healthy:
- Reduce consumption of high-glycemic carbohydrates, which may involve counting carbs.
- Schedule a fluorescein angiography, a test that analyzes blood circulation in the eyes.
- See an eye doctor for eye examinations at least once a year. Tell her that you’re diabetic so that she can look for warning signs of vision loss.
In addition, try to eat a healthy diabetic diet high in foods with a low glycemic index, including:
- All-bran cereal
- Fresh vegetables
- Whole-wheat bread
- Whole-wheat pasta
- Wild rice.
Remember, however, that carbohydrates (whether high- or low-glycemic) raise blood glucose levels. Doctors recommend a diabetes diet that is about 50 percent carbohydrates. Counting carbs can help you to enjoy a healthy diet that helps preserve your vision.
American Diabetes Association. (n.d.) Making healthy food choices. Retrieved June 6, 2010, from http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices.html.
Faye, E. E., Galligan, M., Hood, C., Moyes, A.