Frank Schonlau, Director of Scientific Communication, Horphag Research, elaborates on how Pycnogenol has helped people address retinopathy and preserve precious eye-sight
Vision is our predominant sense and maintaining good eyesight is more than assuring good visual acuity. Vision is the process of deriving meaning from what our eyes sense. Vision is the paramount of all our senses and losing eyesight is among the greatest of fears to all of us. Indeed the eye is the most sophisticated, most complex sensual organ of our body, having a privileged immediate connection to the brain. In fact the light-sensing retina anatomically is regarded part of the brain.
On a per-size basis, the retina represents the most oxygen – demanding tissue in the body and with unattended oxidative stress, ageing and deterioration of light-sensing retina and the lens accelerate. When the lens, with increasing age, loses flexibility or transparency, this fortunately may be compensated with corrective glasses, contact lenses or surgical interventions, as appropriate. In contrast, retinal damage accumulated during life, can neither be restored nor technically compensated for (prescription glasses are ineffective). The disorder representing the greatest threat for damage to the retina is retinopathy, which represents the leading cause of blindness in India (Gupta et al., 2016). Retinopathy involves destruction of the fragile capillaries supplying the retina, causing blood spillage into the retina, which in turn causes malsupply of photoreceptors with nutrients and oxygen, causing progressive, largely irreversible, vision loss. These processes occur in absence of pain or other sensations which would alert affected individuals. A major cause of retinopathy is a persistently high blood glucose level, such as in individuals with metabolic disorder, especially diabetes, but also hypertension may contribute to the development of this disorder. India is facing a particularly large increase of retinopathy patient numbers, with an estimated up to 20.4 per cent of the large diabetic population developing the eye disease [Frederick et al., 2016].
Decayed photoreceptors in the retina are not replaced, thus vision loss in retinopathy is permanent. Affected individuals do not sense pain, thus they lack suitable warning signs. Individuals developing retinopathy experience an increasingly coarse vision, yet with the slow progression of the disease, which may take several years, the deterioration of eye sight may progress unnoticed for a long time. Typically this disorder is discovered when affected individuals turn to an ophthalmologist in belief for requiring better prescription glasses. During such occasions, individuals often are diagnosed with retinopathy and made aware of metabolic disorder for the first time.
There exist possibilities to arrest progression of retinopathy by strengthening the fragile blood capillaries of the retina, to put an end to bleedings in the eyes and save the remaining eye sight. An extract derived from bark of a specific pine tree (Pinus pinaster Ait), limited to France, bears substances which are demonstrated to potently strengthen fragile capillaries, rendering them less leaky and stopping further vision deterioration. This standardised extract, prepared according to United States Pharmacopoeia requirements, known under the brand-name Pycnogenol, has been clinically investigated in more than 1200 retinopathy patients. In a study with patients diagnosed with retinopathy the sealing of retinal blood vessels was demonstrated by intravenous injection of a fluorescent dye, which allows to spot active retinal bleedings. After 60 days treatment with Pycnogenol the retinal bleedings were found to have significantly decreased owed to the capillary-sealing effects of Pycnogenol. More relevant to the patients was the partial vision restoration, they experienced from taking Pycnogenol (Spadea et al., 2001). Best evidence for the virtues of Pycnogenol for saving the eye sight in rertinopathy is a multi-centre field study carried out in Germany with 1,169 diabetic patients (Schönlau & Rohdewald, 2002). This large study demonstrated that treatment with Pycnogenol stopped progression of retinopathy and actually restored vision to some extent. Such very large studies have built the trust in Pycnogenol for helping people address retinopathy and preserve precious eye-sight. The earlier the treatment of retinopathy commences, the better the conservation of vision and symptom improvement may be achieved with Pycnogenol Steigerwalt et al., 2009. Patients presenting with retinopathy at early stage showed visual acuity increase from 14/20 to 17/20 (Snellen chart). High resolution ultrasound measurements identified significantly reduced retinal swellings and better perfusion of retinal capillaries.
India deals with a diabetes challenge, unprecedented in the world, which tragically will translate into a serious eye health challenge. Public education and efforts for greater awareness will help to assist affected individuals receive timely medical attention. Pycnogenol may well represent a mainstay for preserving good eye health In India, with evidence-based eye health improvement in the diabetic population. Foremost, Pycnogenol is safe to use and was repeatedly successfully demonstrated in studies with more than 1200 patients to be efficacious.
Gupta R, Misra A Epidemiology of microvascular complications of diabetes in South Asians and comparison with other ethnicities. J Diabetes 8: 470-482, 2016.
Schönlau F, Rohdewald P Pycnogenol for diabetic retinopathy. A review. Int Ophthalmol. 24: 161-171, 2002.
Steigerwalt R, Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Di Renzo A, Grossi MG, Ricci A, Dugall M, Cacchio M, Schönlau F. Pycnogenol improves microcirculation, retinal oedema, and visual acuity in early diabetic retinopathy. Ocul Pharmacol Ther. 25: 537-540, 2009.
Spadea L, Balestrazzi E. Treatment of vascular retinopathies with Pycnogenol. Phytother Res 15: 219-223, 2001.