NIH-funded study shows less diabetic retinopathy progression among those who underwent intensive glycemic control
Diabetes that is commonly recognised by the fluctuating blood sugar levels in the body, can be dangerous for the eye as well. People with type 2 diabetes are usually advised to be regular with their eye checkups. This helps in detecting eye problems if any and seeking the right type of treatment before the damage deepens.
Researches reveal that diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the people of age group of 20 to 74 years. For diabetes patients, keeping a strict control on the sugar levels followed by regular checkups is one of the best way to prevent the condition from damaging their eyes. A new research conducted as part of the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) Trial Eye Study by NIH also reiterates the importance of diabetes control for better vision health.
The Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) Trial Eye Study has proved that people with type 2 diabetes who were able to control the sugar levels in their blood intensively were at a lower risk of developing complications in their vision. In fact, adequate control can help cut the risk of diabetic retinopathy to half, claimed a follow-up analysis done on the same group of participants.
The follow-up analysis was done four years after the intensive therapy was stopped. The entire study was supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute (NEI).
What is diabetic retinopathy?
Before we delve deeper into the key takeaways of this study that can help those of you suffering from diabetes avoid any type of eye health problems, let’s understand the impact of diabetes on the eye. A common concern amongst people suffering from type 2 diabetes is about the fluctuating sugar levels affecting their eyesight.
Diabetic retinopathy affects the tiny blood vessels connected to the retina and this is how it runs the risk of damaging your vision. Now, these blood vessels can get damaged due to fluctuating sugar levels. Occasionally, the tiny blood vessels can leak and over a period of time the damage can be so intense that it can affect your vision.
What’s scary is that this damage occurs extremely slowly and can therefore often go unnoticed until it causes major vision problems.
“This study sends a powerful message to people with type 2 diabetes who worry about losing vision,” said Emily Chew, M.D., Deputy Director of the NEI Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications and lead author of the study report, published online in Diabetes Care. Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) Trial Eye Study proves that well-controlled glycemia, or blood sugar level, has a positive, measurable and lasting effect on eye health.
About the study
The ACCORD study consisted of 1310 participants and was focused on analysing the treatment strategies that help in effectively reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. All participants of the study had long standing type 2 diabetes. The test involved maintaining near-normal blood sugar levels (intensive glycemic control); improving blood cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure.
ACCORDION is a Follow-on Eye Study that focused on the assessment of diabetic retinopathy progression in the participants. Even though the proposed treatment strategies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease risk failed, the follow up study successfully sheds light on the importance of proper diabetes control measure to maintain healthy vision in the long run for type 2 diabetes patients.
That’s not it, the study re-assessed diabetic retinopathy after about four years in the same group of patients. And it was during this reassessment that the researchers discovered how the advancement of diabetic retinopathy had slowed down in patients who had been a part of the intense therapy group.
One of the key highlights of this study proves lowering blood glucose can delay the progression of retinal disease in the course of type 2 diabetes. The findings add to mounting evidence that tight glycemic control has positive, long-lasting effects on small blood vessels.
Results also point to a possible role for ongoing use of the drug fenofibrate to treat diabetic retinopathy, if taken regularly. Even though the best known usage of fenofibrate is to control cholesterol, it’s regular usage could be helping in decreasing the progression of diabetic retinopathy as well. Some countries like Australia, have already approved the use of fenofibrate for treating diabetic retinopathy. However, it is still too early to comment on the effectiveness of the drug to control progression of diabetic retinopathy. More research along with a series of well-planned trials are required in order to establish the usage of this drug.
Eyecare vital for diabetics
Currently, diabetic retinopathy affects about 7.7 million Americans and is the leading cause of vision loss among working-age Americans. Diabetic retinopathy can cause blood vessels to swell and leak fluid, sometimes distorting vision. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy, an advanced stage of the disease, occurs when abnormal blood vessels appear on the surface of the retina. These abnormal blood vessels are prone to bleeding and lead to the formation of scar tissue, sometimes causing retinal detachment and permanent vision loss.
The new research points towards the importance of proper vision care for diabetic patients and once again underlines the importance of regular examinations to maintain healthy eyesight in the long run.
One of the best options for patients with diabetes is to be extremely regular with their eye checkups. Of course, the mandatory requirement for all diabetic patients is to strictly follow their doctor’s advice and keep their sugar levels under control. Because in the long run, this will help you stay healthy and even maintain the health of your vision. Simple steps like keeping blood sugar and blood pressure under check at all times can also help in maintaining vision health.
Another important rule to implement is to eat right and stay fit. Yes! Diet plays a crucial role in keeping your diabetes under control and battling various types of vision problems as well. A diabetic patient must opt for healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, as well as exercising for a balanced lifestyle. Ideally, you should consult your doctor prior to deciding your workout and diet routine. Giving up habits like smoking and drinking will also contribute towards keeping a tab on your blood sugar levels and maintaining healthy vision.