Diabetes and Depression Can Make you Blind

It’s an all-too-familiar story. In fact, maybe it’s even your own. 

Let’s say you’re diagnosed with diabetes. Suddenly, it seems as if you have to make a load of adjustments to your life. Navigating the holidays or a social gathering can start to feel like a nightmare, and before long you begin to feel down.

Now, of course, everyone feels a bit down in the dumps sometimes, so it may not be such a big deal. But for many diabetics, the blues can morph all too easily into a serious depression. And, according to a new study published in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry, if left untreated this depression can lead to serious eye damage.

Diabetic retinopathy, a condition that can lead to bleeding in the eye and severe vision damage, is already a well-known complication of long-term diabetes. But research now shows that diabetics suffering from severe depression are significantly more likely to develop the disease.

Researchers from the University of Washington Medical School in Seattle studied the cases of 2,359 people with diabetes. Using a special survey tool, the PHQ-9, they then determined the volunteers’ various levels of depression. That’s when the association between depression and diabetes was revealed.

In a five-year follow-up period 22.9% of the volunteers with a PHQ-9 ranking that indicated major depression developed retinopathy as compared with 19.7% of the patients without depression. But even more telling, was that for every five-point increase on the PHQ-9 scale there was a staggering 15% increase in risk for developing the disease.

Even after adjusting for other outside factors, including obesity, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and blood-sugar levels, the researchers found that depression was still associated with the increased risk of developing retinopathy.

The UW researchers theorize that the physical changes that accompany depression…things like, raised cortisol levels and blood-clotting factors… that are at least partially responsible for the increased risk.

While more research needs to be done to nail down all the factors and to figure out exactly how depression is connected, one thing’s for sure and that is that depression hurts. And, frankly, regardless of what future research turns up about the retinopathy-and-depression connection, it’s really a no-brainer that reversing depression is going to do only good things for your health.

A good place to start is to increase the amount of fish in your diet. The omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which is found in fish oil, has been shown to be an all-natural mood-lifter. Also, try increasing your depression-busting vitamin-D levels by spending some more time in the sun and eating more vitamin-D-rich foods like eggs, shiitake mushrooms, fish, and shrimp. And finally, be sure to take a good B-complex vitamin daily to help ward off depression at the pass.

Reminding you that dealing with diabetes is difficult enough without the double whammy of dodging depression and dimming eyesight


Be well

Dr Sundardas

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