New Finding Could Prevent Advanced Diabetic Retinopathy

This week, researchers from The John Hopkins University and University of Maryland are reporting on a potential new finding that may lead to new treatments for (and possibly prevention of) advanced diabetic retinopathy.  The treatment would involve the blocking of two proteins which play a key role in the formation of abnormal blood vessels in the retina – the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. This is exciting news for the nearly half of all people with diabetes that live with this condition, and fear such complications as glaucoma and blindness.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy and What Causes It?

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition which occurs when the tiny blood vessels in our eyes become blocked by excessive glucose in our blood stream. This blockage can then lead to eye blood vessels becoming inflamed, and eventually bursting and leaking. We may develop diabetic retinopathy for a number of reasons, such as: length of our diabetes, poor blood glucose control, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco use, ethnicity, genetics, etc. In its earliest stages, the condition is not readily apparent, so we may not experience any symptoms at all, or we may have some blurry vision or haziness.

The condition is progressive, so it is very important that we have a yearly eye exam in order to determine if we have it, and when to treat it. The slow and steady progression of diabetic retinopathy may lead to the overgrowth of malformed blood vessels, which may cause the detachment of our retinas from the back of our eyes. This can in turn lead to glaucoma and blindness.

So far, treatment efforts for diabetic retinopathy have been toward the slowing down of the condition – as it is degenerative. Often, the treatments will involve oral agents and even laser surgery in order to stop leaky blood vessels. But this usually comes at the expense of peripheral and night time vision… and they won’t stop progression. So the discovery of these two new proteins (and the ability to block them) is a potential game changer for people with diabetes and the many who live with extensive eye damage.

But what can we do today in order to help reduce our risks from getting it?

  • Control your Blood Glucose Levels: We can’t be perfect all the time, but living a life with overall good blood glucose control is a huge factor in our day to day well-being. If you are struggling, seek to speak to your medical team. They may need to adjust your medication, or could refer you to a diabetes educator, or even a therapist. Hope is not lost, but we must at least ask for help.
  • Cut Back on Alcohol and Improve Your Diet, and Exercise: Pursuing a healthy lifestyle can help us improve our cholesterol and blood pressure levels, as well as our insulin sensitivity. Your medical team may also give you further medication to help you attain these goals.
  • And Work on a Smoking Cessation Program: Even without diabetes, smoking can lead to serious tissue damage like peripheral neuropathy, and gangrene.

It is encouraging to know that in the future, we may be able to treat and even prevent developing advanced diabetic retinopathy. But seeking to lead a healthy lifestyle can also help us delay or even keep those complications at bay.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Type2Diabetes.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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