Monthly Archives: November 2012

Diabetes and Glaucoma: A New Perspective

A study at the University of Michigan found people with diabetes have a 35% higher chance of having Glaucoma than people who do not. The study went on to say the reason for the higher rates of glaucoma in diabetics is “unknown.” My purpose for writing this article is to explain the nutritional reasons that diabetes and glaucoma often go hand in hand.

Before going further, let me state this very clearly: The purpose of this article is to provide education. Both diabetes and glaucoma are serious conditions requiring medical intervention. All eye conditions must be diagnosed and treated by an ophthalmologist. It is imperative that everyone with diabetes have an eye exam including a retinal exam and a glaucoma screening once yearly at a minimum. Never change your medication dosage without consulting your MD and/or ophthalmologist. If you wish to reduce the amount of glaucoma medication you take, consult with your ophthalmologist. Ask him or her to check your ocular pressure every three months, adjusting your dosage as needed. Failure to work with your ophthalmologist could result in blindness. Please do not take matters into your own hands. None of these statements were evaluated by the FDA and none are intended to diagnose, cure, prevent or treat any health condition.

I was diagnosed with glaucoma in April of 2000. I reversed my glaucoma in less than six months using simple lifestyle changes and it has never returned. (I know it has not returned because I continue receiving ophthalmologic care on a yearly basis.) As someone who has had diabetes for over 45 years, I have dedicated my life to researching the biochemical effects of diabetes and to helping those who have it avoid complications. My research led me to draw distinct conclusions about why diabetics are more likely to have glaucoma.

In the simplest terms, glaucoma is an increase in the internal pressure of the eye. (This is known as the Picture of a pretty eye“intraocular pressure.”) In the most common form of Glaucoma, Open Angle Glaucoma, the increase in intraocular pressure often occurs because the eye’s drainage system, the trabecular meshwork, fails to drain excess fluid from the eye. This creates increased pressure within the eye. Left untreated, the increased pressure harms the ocular nerve, causing loss of peripheral vision in the early stages and blindness as the disease advances. Glaucoma typically has no symptoms. Those who have it rarely notice its effects until it progresses to the point it harms vision. 

Why do diabetics have such high rates of glaucoma? Some suspect it’s due to peripheral nerve and vessel damage caused by high glucose levels. This may be true, but if we dig into the chemistry of diabetes – and insulin – a much simpler cause comes to light. Glucose has a very similar molecular structure to Vitamin C. When cells become resistant to and stop absorbing insulin, they therefore also may stop absorbing vitamin C. (Insulin resistance occurs in Type 2 Diabetes due to excess insulin produced by the body; and in Type 1 Diabetes due to the need to inject high amounts of insulin.) What is one of the first effects of a Vitamin C deficiency? Increased interocular pressure. (For more information on insulin, read: Surprising Facts About Insulin.)

Other deficiencies known to contribute to increased intraocular pressure include deficiencies in vitamin B12, magnesium, zinc, iron and others. All of these deficiencies are very common in people with diabetes. The fact that nutritional deficiencies contribute to or may cause glaucoma cannot be denied. Scientists in Russia have known this for years and very successfully treat glaucoma using a much different protocol than what is used in the US. Quite frankly, the US is one of few countries where glaucoma is treated purely with prescription medications. Other countries combine prescription medications with nutritional support.

Multiple studies showed taking oral Vitamin C reduces interocular pressure by as much as 30% within half an hour. In spite of this being a known fact, very few ophthalmologists tell their patients to take a Vitamin C supplement. For many patients, taking 500 – 2000 mg of Vitamin C on a daily basis reduces their interocular pressure to the point they no longer need prescription medication. One study found Vitamin C was very effective at reducing eye pressure even for patients who did not respond to prescription medication.

So can we reduce ocular pressure simply by taking Vitamin C? In part, yes; however, additional change must occur to allow the body’s cells to adequately absorb the Vitamin C. A key factor to allowing the body’s cells to absorb Vitamin C is to reduce the amount of insulin needed (or being produced by the body) and to improve the cells’ insulin sensitivity. This is typically accomplished by eating a low-carbohydrate diet, eating high amounts of antioxidant-rich foods on a daily basis, and other lifestyle changes.

I recommend taking oral vitamin C throughout the process of improving insulin sensitivity and reducing insulin levels. Some people use vitamin C eye drops to bypass the digestive tract and get the vitamin C directly to the eye tissues, while others use intravenous vitamin C to deliver it directly to the blood stream. Although all three delivery methods are known to be effective, taking vitamin C orally is certainly the most convenient.

Vitamin C is known to benefit diabetics in a variety of ways. In addition to aiding glaucoma, the antioxidant effects of vitamin C are known to help prevent cataracts by preventing the formation of compounds that can lodge in the lens of the eye. Vitamin C is also known to be beneficial for diabetic retinopathy and other diabetic complications. Vitamin C has also been shown to be effective at helping reduce high blood pressure when used in conjunction with other lifestyle changes. The use of vitamin C for both diabetes and glaucoma is beneficial in most cases.

For me personally, the combination of high doses of oral Vitamin C, a strict low-carbohydrate eating style, and high intake of antioxidants quickly restored my intraocular pressure to normal. Since then, I continue eating limited amounts of carbs and still eat high amounts of vegetables, but reducing the amount of insulin I take on a daily basis seems to have been the key to permanently reducing my intraocular pressure. Reducing the amount of insulin I need on a daily basis allowed my cells to absorb Vitamin C and naturally decreased systemic inflammation. One of the greatest joys of my life is knowing I was able, by God’s grace, to permanently eliminate my need for glaucoma medication.

I’ve had diabetes for over 46 years. I’ve lived on both sides of the “medical fence” and have devoted my life to helping other diabetics and anyone dealing with metabolic disorders. I have helped 100’s of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics improve their glucose control, reverse their need for medication, lose weight and more. I have higher success rates than other practitioners because I live this on a daily basis. I know I can help you. Please contact me to schedule a consultation. 

References:

Virno M, Bucci M: Oral treatment of Glaucoma with Vitamin C, The Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Monthly, Vol. 46, 1502-1508, Dec. 1967

Liu KM, Swann D, Lee P, Lam KW . Inhibition of oxidative degradation of hyaluronic acid by uric acid. Curr Eye Res 1984;3:1049-1053

http://orthomolecular.org/library/jom/1995/pdf/1995-v10n0304-p165.pdf

Schachtschabel DO, Binninber E. Stimulatory effects of ascorbic acid in hyaluronic acid synthesis of in vitro cultured normal and glaucomatous trabecular meshwork cells of the human eye. Z Gerontol 1993;26:243-246

http://www.cforyourself.com/Conditions/Eye_Conditions/eye_conditions.html

When Fear of Liability Prevents Diabetes Care

This post is a very personal one. I’d like to share a tale of what happens when an insured diabetic needs medication but can’t get it.

Current estimates show there are over 90 million people in the US who have diabetes or pre-diabetes. That equates to almost 30% of the population. Approximately 8 million people have diabetes but are not aware of it. The end result of this epidemic is that diabetes has become a huge liability for the mainstream medical community. In the midst of trying to help everyone they can, the medical community has developed a fear their efforts will result in someone’s death. (This fear exists for other medical conditions, but nowhere is it stronger than in diabetes.)

Three weeks ago my insulin pump stopped working. The manufacturer replaced the pump, yet 12 hours later the same problem occurred. Still assuming the problem was related to equipment, I insisted the pump manufacturer replace the insertion sets I was using. Insertion sets attach the insulin pump to the body and have a short tube – a “cannula” – which sticks into the skin to a depth of about ¼ – ½”. (See Picture of an infusion set showing the cannulapicture. The cannula is the tiny piece of plastic at the far right.) Unfortunately, the new box of insertion sets had the same problem. After about 12 hours, the insulin pump returned error messages stating it could not deliver the insulin. The area where the cannula entered the skin was always inflamed, a bit itchy and very painful, but had no indicators of infection.

I experimented with multiple locations on my body and always had the same problem. Final conclusion? I had developed an allergy to the plastic used in the insertion set’s cannula. This meant I had to take a “pump holiday” and return to using injections to control my blood sugars while I researched insertion sets with a stainless steel cannula. Not using my insulin pump presented a problem because the only insulin I had a prescription for was fast-acting Humalog, which has a lifespan of about two to four hours, This short duration of effectiveness meant I had to inject insulin every two to three hours. It also meant controlling my sugars while I slept was virtually impossible. I needed a prescription for Lantus, a long-acting insulin with a lifespan of approximately 24 hours. This is where the story gets interesting.

I called my GP, who told me she would not give me a prescription for Lantus because the liability was too high since I had never taken it before. I offered to come in for an appointment, but she refused. She told me to go to an emergency room. I called an emergency room and was told the physicians there would be unwilling to prescribe Lantus for a patient whom they had no history on and for whom they could not follow as an in-patient. I called my endocrinologist, whom I had not seen for almost two years*. I knew they could not prescribe for me without seeing me, and I begged for an appointment. The best they could do was to “squeeze” me in ten days later. They also suggested I go to an emergency room to get the insulin I needed.

*Please note: The fact I had not seen my endocrinologist for over two years does NOT mean I was not receiving care. I adjust my insulin levels as needed, and I was getting necessary blood work such as A1C, thyroid profile, etc. from my GP. I was staying on top of things and consistently maintain A1C’s between 5.7-6.0. I want to clarify that I maintain very strict control over my diabetes and always get the blood work needed to monitor my control. I was recently told my experience was “my fault.” Please know it was not and that I was doing everything necessary to maintain perfect control of my glucose levels.

In the midst of this, my blood sugar control went haywire. I typically awoke with sugars higher than 500, even if I got up at 3 am to take insulin. During the day, I had to inject every one to two hours in order to maintain decent control. I quit eating carbs completely and still had to inject frequently. My energy levels plummeted, and I began to fear my poor control would have a permanent effect. At this point, I had gone almost two weeks without my pump. The early days were spent negotiating with the pump manufacturer; the later days were spent begging providers for a Lantus prescription.

Determined to get what I needed, I went to an immediate care center. The triage nurse told me the doctor would not be willing to prescribe what I needed. I begged and confess I bullied a tiny bit. Luckily, the on-call physician was in the reception area and heard my tale. He asked me a few questions and agreed to prescribe what I needed. He was the first physician who had shown more concern for my health than for his own liability. I am forever grateful to him.

Let’s review: I’m fully insured. My glucose levels were above 500, meaning I was in an emergency situation and desperately needed different medication. I have 45 years of experience controlling diabetes, so I am not a new diabetic who presents a large risk. I’m a Naturopath who speaks nationwide on endocrine disorders and controlling diabetes, so I have knowledge and training most people with diabetes do not.

In spite of all of that, not one of the MD’s I spoke with was willing to prescribe what was obviously a medically-necessary medication. Failure to prescribe this medication could have resulted in my death. Even when I shared that my glucose levels were running above 500, no one was willing to incur the liability of prescribing the medication that was desperately needed. My best option for care would have been to allow myself to go into a diabetic coma, at which point they would have gladly assisted. I instead chose to take matters into my own hands and be my own advocate in a very strong way.

If I had any other condition, physicians would have prescribed what I needed without question. ALL medications have side effects. ALL medications can result in death if not taken correctly. Only a diabetic would be denied care due to physician’s fears of liability. Physicians regularly prescribe narcotic pain medication to patients, often without providing adequate instruction. Those narcotics could just as easily cause death from overdose as insulin could, yet getting them is incredibly easy.

There’s something wrong with this picture.

The current medical system has put so many shackles on physicians that a patient in desperate need of care cannot receive it. When an insured patient is refused care by an emergency room, solely based on fears of liability, there is a desperate need for change. Based on current trends, I predict things are going to get worse, not better.

What are your thoughts?