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Diabetes Bites Newsletter

A recent study may give us some ammunition in the prevention of retinopathy

– Alicia Downs RN, BSN, CDE

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most disabling complications of diabetes and the leading cause of new cases of vision loss among adults.

Discovery of lipid chain in retinal structures giving new ways of looking at preventing devastating complication.

I have lived my whole life behind glass… Well, behind glasses anyway.

diabetic eye issues

I’ve worn glasses since I was 2 years old following an attempted corrective surgical procedure left me legally and functionally blind in one eye. So for me, of all of the potential complications that come with a diagnosis of diabetes, diabetic retinopathy is the one that struck the most fear in my heart. (Honestly I try not to think about the “what if” and focus on prevention and not letting this disease get one single inch more of my quality of life than absolutely necessary.) So I keep an extra eye on my eye health and work with an ophthalmologist who keeps up with the latest trends in treatment and prevention of retinopathy and other diabetes related eye risks.

I was very excited when he recently forwarded me an article on a recent discovery about the structure of the retinal blood vessels that may give us some ammunition in the prevention of retinopathy beyond just tight blood sugar management.

Diabetic retinopathy causes blood vessels in the retina of the eye to leak or break entirely. This leaked blood acts very much like throwing black paint onto the screen of a movie theatre. The light that hits that area is no longer reflected back properly, so the visual field is disturbed, or lost entirely. The black paint makes the picture blurry, blotchy, or even gone all together. The National Institutes of health reports 7.69 million cases of diabetic retinopathy in the US in 2010. This is the single largest cause of blindness in adults in the US.

In April’s Diabetes, a Journal of the American Diabetes Association researchers at Michigan State University stumbled upon a lipid structure that plays a vital role in the structure of retinal blood vessels. These long lipid strands hold the walls of the retinal vessels together tightly and prevent leakage that leads to retinopathy. It is believed that elevated blood sugars cause the suppression of the enzyme that is needed to produce these long lipid chains.

Unexpected finding may deter disabling diabetic eye disease >

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