Diabetic retinopathy is a serious medical condition that can lead to vision loss in people suffering with Type 2 Diabetes, but researches have recently discovered two new treatments that could slow the progression of vision loss in Type 2 diabetics. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the retina; the blood vessels leak causing the retina to swell. Additionally, new blood vessels can develop and cause loss of vision.
In one of the largest studies to date, researches followed 2,865 diabetic patients of which 50% had diabetic retinopathy at the start of the study. During a four-year period, photos of the retina were taken to monitor any changes in the blood vessels and the progression of diabetic retinopathy.
One of the principal researchers, Walter Ambrosius from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, said that “Many people with diabetes have microvascular problems, which can result in problems with the kidneys and amputation of the toes and feet, and the only place that you can directly observe the microvasculature is in the back of the eyes…what we have seen in the eyes is a possible indicator of what is happening in other parts of the body.”
Participants in the study were administered three treatments:
- Therapy to control and normalize their blood sugar
- Treatments to control blood pressure and bring it within normal limits
- A combination of lipid and fenofibrate therapy (drugs that lower cholesterol)
The study showed that the first two treatments decreased the progression of loss of vision by one-third. The third treatment showed no effect at all.
Researches warn of one safety concern with the new treatments: “Patients in the intensive blood sugar control arm of the study had a higher risk of severe low blood sugar and death.” The National Eye Institute warns that doctors need to consider this when discussing treatment plans with their patients.