Donít wait to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes to protect your vision. 

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the severe complications of diabetes. Just like the other complications of diabetes, itís caused by damage to the blood vessels as a result of high blood sugars. In this case the blood vessels of the retina in the eye are the target. Itís the most common eye disease among people with diabetes and a leading cause of blindness. Retinopathy is a progressive condition that at first may have no symptoms. About 45% of people with diabetes have some degree of retinopathy.

To avoid any of the complications of diabetes or slow their progression, your goal should be to maintain blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Since carbohydrates are the foods that primarily elevate blood sugar it makes sense to consume carb foods with the lowest glycemic response.

Unfortunately, the American Diabetes Association doesnít think along those lines. The ADA even allows sugar to be included in a diabetic diet routine. They recommend calorie restriction which in the long run allows too many carbs and a reliance on too many meds to manage blood sugar. A recent study attempting to accomplish tight blood sugar control using combinations of meds led to a higher death rate than in those patients given less aggressive therapies. In my view the lesson of this result is to minimize the need for aggressive drugs and their dangerous side effects especially as people age and are less able to handle numerous meds. You can do this by controlling both the quality and quantity of carbs to address blood sugar. Many people on Atkins have better blood sugar results without meds than they did before beginning the Atkins Lifestyle while on meds.

The ADAís goal for adequate blood sugar control is an A1C less than 7. This means an average blood sugar of about 170 or less. Even an A1C of 6 means an average blood sugar of about 140. Based on a new paper these levels are likely to be too high, putting vulnerable blood vessels in the eye and perhaps in the entire body at risk. 

Even pre-diabetes has its risks

A paper published in the March 1, 2008 edition of Lancet found that more then 60% of retinopathy cases occurred in patients with fasting blood sugars (FBS) below 126mg/dl. An FBS of 126 or above is one of the diagnostic criterion for diabetes. This means that damage to blood vessels in the eye can occur well before the diagnosis of diabetes is made. An FBS of 100 to 125 mg/dl is called pre-diabetes. There are millions of undiagnosed people with diabetes and many millions more at risk for it.

This study should give everyone one more reason to practice aggressive prevention by cleaning up their diets and normalizing weight. This is especially urgent if you have a family history of diabetes or if youíre a candidate for metabolic syndrome. To find out if you or someone you love has metabolic syndrome review the presentation found here.

The findings in this paper have not surprisingly led to discussions about what they mean. One researcher felt that these findings require a re-evaluation of the diagnostic criteria for diabetes.

Regardless of what decisions are eventually reached, common sense dictates that people who are overweight or obese, have a family history of diabetes, had gestational diabetes when pregnant, those who canít control their carb intake, people with a sedentary lifestyle or have metabolic syndrome, or those with reactive hypoglycemia have a wonderful opportunity to make one of the most important investments of their lives. Control the quality and quantity of carbs and protect not only your waistline but your vision as well.