Monday, 21 October 2013

Diabetic Gastroparesis and Diabetic Retinopathy.

Having diabetic gastroparesis along with diabetic retinopathy can be quite frustrating and scary to say the least. Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the retina in the eye caused by complications of diabetes and can lead to blindness. The longer someone has diabetes, the higher the chance they could develop diabetic retinopathy and especially by not keeping the blood sugars controlled. Diabetic retinopathy causes blood vessels in the eye to rupture. This is caused by pressure built on the eye, which vomiting can cause. Fluid builds up in the eye covering the retina. This can possibly mean temporary blindness and can lead to permanent blindness in either one eye or two. The treatment is medicated eye drops, sleeping on a 45 degree angle so the fluid can settle, no bending over and no lifting anything over 5 pounds. The more extensive treatments are laser surgeries, where they essentially cut out blood vessels from the back of the eye. This process is extremely painful. 

Having either diabetic gastroparesis or diabetic retinopathy is challenging but add them together, things can get even more complicated then things already are.  With gastroparesis causing mild to severe vomiting, depending on the person, the eyes are in a very vulnerable state. All the pressure on the eyes that comes from vomiting can easily cause a blood vessel to rupture, causing fluid build up and temporary blindness. This becomes added stress, which is definitely NOT needed in the life of a diabetic GPer with diabetic retinopathy. As a GPer your  already doing everything you can not to vomit but then having the stress of trying not to vomit because it can destroy you eye sight is a stress all on it's own. I've gone through temporary blindness countless times in the first few years of having gastroparesis (thankfully not so much lately) and it's the scariest thing, literally watching your vision go as the fluid settles over 20 minutes or so. The fluid is white, so it's like your eye is fogging up. Then when it's settled all you can see is white cloud and  darker colored shadows from things moving around you. As the days go on shadows slowly become clearer and color starts reappearing. The fog is lifting! For me, it takes an average of 2-3 weeks for the fluid to settle and my vision to return to normal. Having this happen you also have to be careful and aware of your balance, as looking through one eye can make things a little uneasy at times. Diabetic retinopathy is very frustrating when it acts up and unfortunately it's yet another obstacle to go through if living with diabetic GP and diabetic retinopathy.

I have had 14 laser eye surgeries, 2 surgeries on my eyes where they put me under with anesthesia, and one procedure where they injected me directly into the pupil with a newer form of treatment, which worked well. I am not sure if this procedure is still done or not though.
For each laser injection you are given freezing and numbing eye drops, then you get a needle directly into the bottom of the eye just above the cheek bone for freezing. Then comes the laser. Even with the freezing eye drops and the needle with freezing in it, the laser is so incredibly painful. Not once, after 11 laser surgeries did I not feel pain from the freezing. The pain literally feels exactly like what they are doing, cutting out blood vessels from behind the eye. Needless to say it's painful! I can't complain though, because my eye surgeon is amazing and my eyes are healthy! And vomiting hasn't caused a blood vessel to bleed for a year and a half now! My vision is good. My ability to focus on things has changed due to the surgeries. It takes me longer to read and it's harder to see very small things like dust and dirt and even the stars I can't see that well anymore. But I'm happy that my vision is good despite having diabetic retinopathy.

To help save and protect the eyes from damage happening, first of all lower/stabilize blood sugars (if needed) then secondly lower stress as much as you can. Blood pressure also effects the eyes. Having good blood pressure control can help prevent the retinopathy from progressing to possible blindness .Do everything in your power to manage and own your gastroparesis to limit the vomiting. I know this is all easier said then done but it's for good health which makes it worth it! And remember, trying to stay as positive as you can helps our overall health, it really does make a difference!!

Diabetic gastroparesis and diabetic retinopathy are not a good combination of health conditions  to have but with good care, proper treatments, and procedures the retinopathy can be managed. Hopefully for those of you with both conditions, you're having good eye health along with good GP health :)

Vitmains for good eye health

Vitamin A contributes to the retina, which indicates light changes. The rods and cones within the retina need vitamin A to communicate to the nervous system the amount of light that exists in the present atmosphere. A healthy liver can store up to a year's worth of vitamin A in the body, and a deficiency most commonly leads to night blindness. Potent sources of vitamin A include orange and yellow foods such as carrots and sweet potatoes..

Beta-carotene converts to vitamin A once ingested. Because beta-carotene is an antioxidant, it prevents cell destruction caused by free radicals. This especially protects against age related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in the elderly. Carrots, broccoli and spinach are rich sources of beta-carotene. Those who eat a diet full of these foods are less likely to develop macular degeneration.

Vitamin C is highly concentrated in the eye. This antioxidant helps to protect the eye from oxygen related damage. More specifically, it protects retinal cells and prevents macular degeneration and other diseases of the retina. Vitamin C also reduces intraocular pressure by raising the acidity in the blood. This helps with the common visual impairment glaucoma.

Vitamin E is another antioxidant that protects the eye from severe damage. It protects the lens from severe damage such as cigarette smoke and light damage. Vitamin E protects the retinal cells from malfunctioning and also reduces the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Rich sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.

Chromium is a natural option for lowering the pressure in eyelids. Chromium is often supplemented by glaucoma patients. Sources of chromium include starchy fruits and vegetables, Brewer's Yeast and egg yolks.

Selenium is a mineral that helps produce the protective enzyme glutathione peroxidase found in healthy eyes. Selenium also boosts the effectiveness of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. Doctors do not normally recommend a sole selenium supplement. They prefer that it is taken in a multivitamin or through foods such as garlic, onions, mushrooms and fish.

Zinc aids in the prevention of retinal deterioration that comes with age. Zinc produces antioxidant enzymes found in the eye, and many doctors recommend this essential mineral in addition to other treatments and medications. Zinc also works with vitamin A to help the eyes adjust to different levels of darkness. The richest food sources of zinc are protein rich foods such as all meats. Vegetarians can find zinc in beans and dairy, but these sources are not as potent.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Spreading Awareness for Diabetic Gastroparesis!

The last 5 months have been amazing compared to the previous 5 months. I am back to eating soft, easy-to-digest solid foods like potatoes, rice, pasta, carrots, cucumbers/pickles, cheese, canned peaches and pears, bananas, melons, eggs, puddings, yogurt, crackers and some cookies, chicken, fish, and turkey. There are foods that I can tolerate when I am at my best that I still haven't added back into my diet like grapes, fresh peaches, pears and nectarines, peeled apples, cooked broccoli and cauliflower, peas, peppers, and popcorn - these foods are considered non-GP-friendly but every GPer is different and while going through a trial and error stage I learned I could handle these foods, at my best. This time around however, I've been somewhat hesitant about adding these foods back into my diet. I admit I'm a little scared to try them even though I am about 95% sure I could handle them, but I am still scared. Things are going so good right now that I just don't want to chance it. This time around I have gone extremely slow with adding foods back into my diet, taking months to get back to my best instead of adding everything in only a couple weeks. After the winter I had last year I think it's understandable. I hate the fear of eating that comes with this disease, not knowing if a meal I'm going to eat will put me in the hospital or not (my average stay in hospital is 10 days/episode). Eating is a fear no one should have to live with.

Speaking of fear, I am working on facing something that I've never really liked doing but I have a very good reason to face it! For awhile now I have been wanting to get involved with my local Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to help spread awareness about diabetic gastroparesis. I want to share my story in hopes of encouraging young diabetics the extreme importance of taking good care of their diabetes and how easy it is to take care of in comparison to having complications on top of it . So I got in touch with the Outreach and Mentoring Program. I told them a bit about my story and they responded by saying that I have a very powerful story and that they'd like me to share it with type 1 diabetics and their families at a speaking engagement sometime this December! Here's where my fear comes in, I am a shy and quite person and public speaking has never been my strong suit BUT this topic is SO important to me that I have to do it. I am hoping that by telling my story I'll be able to
spread awareness and possibly help save someone from having to go through what I go through everyday living with gastroparesis. I know I am going to be nervous before hand but once I start I know I'll be fine. Still, the thought of it gets my heart I've been in rooms full of medical professions teaching them about gastroparesis and answering their questions as they try to figure out the how's and why's of GP (I go to a university hospital so there's always a ton of medical students and residents along with the doctors). I am always comfortable talking about my health so I am sure (fingers crossed) that the speaking engagement will go just fine. I'm nervous but at the same time I'm pretty excited about it!

I'll keep you all posted how it goes!