Palmitoylethanolamide is often seen as a natural painkiller. But, besides having painkilling properties, this fatty acid amide also has anti-inflammatory properties. This is why palmitoylethanolamide is also used for the treatment of retinopathy. Retinopathy is an ailment of the retina and is a result of a damage of the arteries and hair follicles of the eye. This is often seen with people who have glaucoma, hypertension, sickle-cell anemia and diabetes. Retinopathy is the most common microvascular complication with diabetes and is the most frequent cause of blindness. Factors that contribute to diabetic retinopathy are inflammation, the nerve growth factor and epigenetics. The most common cause behind blindness in the western world is retinopathy. In the case of diabetes, it is important that the patient’s diet is well adjusted, so that their blood levels do not increase or decrease too much. The retina is very fragile, especially the retinal ganglion cells, and can be easily damaged due to several diseases. Eye doctors often give high priority to protection of the retina. Recent studies point out that the cause of retinopathy is a chronic inflammation. This inflammation causes the destruction of the tissue.
These new insights were a reason for researchers to focus on the role of palmitoylethanolamide in this disease, because palmitoylethanolamide has anti-inflammatory properties. Many properties of palmitoylethanolamide can be explained by the fact that palmitoylethanolamide has an influence on pro-inflammatory genes. These are genes that cause inflammation.
Palmitoylethanolamide also works as a protection for the retina, because of the cell-protection and immune and glia-modulating properties it has.
In addition to that, palmitoylethanolamide also lowers the intraocular pressure; this is important for preventing glaucoma. In a randomized, double-blind, cross-over study, 42 patients with increased intraocular pressure had been receiving palmitoylethanolamide or a placebo for two months. After two months, the eye pressure was measured. With the patients that took palmitoylethanolamide (600 milligrams per day), the eye pressure decreased; with the patients that took the placebo, barely so. A similar study was later conducted in which the results were the same. With both studies, there were no side effects found for palmitoylethanolamide.