Sickle Cell Anemia and Poor Eyesight
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: Vileatha
Posted on: June 6, 2002

My eyesight is very poor. This has happened over the last few years. I’ve been a vegetarian for at least three years. I know poor eating habits will cause this problem and my eating habits were not beneficial to me prior to the vegetarian change. I also was told that I have sickle cell disease 15 years ago. My question to you is: would sickle cell have an effect on my eyes and what herbs and food do you recommend to strengthen the eyes? I don’t go to doctors because most of them are not into natural wholistic health. They just prescribe some medication to cover up the symptoms.

Sickle cell anaemia is caused by a gene defect that affects the red blood cells. Thomas Bartram, "Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine" (available at Richters) states that symptoms can include listlessness, dizziness, aches and pains, rapid pulse and breathing, tinnitus and palpitation, and that it is linked with defective colour vision, impaired liver function and a higher than normal risk of infection.

Your poor eyesight can be due to anemia for two reasons: the quality of the blood reaching your eyes may not provide sufficient nutrition for eye health, and in certain genetic types within those who have sickle cell disease, the blood vessels become damaged, reducing the supply of blood to the eyes.

Although there is no cure for sickle cell anemia, orthodox medicine can control the symptoms to prevent further damage.

Bartram states that although there is no specific herbal treatment for sickle cell anemia, herbal treatment has been known to increase the output of red blood cells and raise hemoglobin levels. Herbs used include red clover flowers, yellow dock, echinacea, burdock and nettles.

Melvyn Werbach, M.D., in "Nutritional Influences on Illness" (Third Line Press, Tarzana, California, (800) 916-0076 or (818) 996-0076), lists studies that indicate beneficial supplementation for sickle cell anemia: folic acid, vitamins B6, C and E, iron, zinc (with a warning that doses of 100 - 300 mg daily for several months can produce a severe copper deficiency, which causes a decrease in iron absorption) and essential fatty acids. Werbach also lists a study that associates intestinal bacterial overgrowth with nutritional deficiencies in sickle cell anemia.

Specific foods for eye health include red and blue berries, like raspberries, black berries and blueberries, foods high in vitamin A, like carrots, foods high in vitamin C like citrus fruits, sea vegetables like kelp and essential fatty acids like freshly ground flax seeds, hemp seeds and oily fish like wild salmon, mackerel, herrings and sardines. A vitamin B complex supplement is also recommended. Alfalfa and nettle teas contain a high mineral content to nourish the blood.

I highly recommend that you consult with a herbalist or naturopath who works with doctors, so that you can receive both regular medical and natural medicine as indicated for your most effective treatment. It is important that you work with someone who will assess your individual symptoms and needs.

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