Preventing Vision Loss from Diabetes: 5 Keys & A New Drug

More than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes, and 86 million are living with prediabetes, a serious health condition that increases a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases1 . Jay Harold has written extensively about diabetes.  Posts include:

African Americans should pay particular attention to diabetes because diabetes was the 6th leading cause of death2 among Black Americans in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC is trying to reduce the affects of vision loss from diabetes with its Vision Health Initiative (VHI).

Here’s what the VHI says about Americans over 40 years old and diabetes:

American adults aged 40 years and older are at greatest risk for eye diseases3 ; as a result, extensive population-based study data are available for this age group. The major eye diseases among people aged 40 years and older are a cataract, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. These diseases are often asymptomatic in the early treatable stages. The prevalence of blindness and vision impairment increases rapidly with age among all racial and ethnic groups, particularly after age 75. Although aging is unavoidable, the evidence is mounting to show the association between some modifiable risk factors (i.e., smoking, ultraviolet light exposure, avoidable trauma, etc.) and these leading eye diseases affecting older Americans. Additional modifiable factors that might lend themselves to improved overall ocular health include a diet rich in antioxidants and maintenance of healthy levels of blood sugar, lipids, total cholesterol, body weight, and blood pressure combined with regular exercise.

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Vision Loss has the greatest impact on people’s day-to-day life!

The annual economic impact of major vision problems among the adult population 40 years and older is more than $145 billion.

Preventing Vision Loss from Diabetes: 5 Keys & A New Drug

The annual economic impact of major vision problems among the adult population 40 years and older is more than $145 billion.

  • More than 70% of survey respondents from National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) 2005 Public Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices survey consider that the loss of their eyesight would have the greatest impact on their day-to-day life; however, less than 11% knew that there are no early warning signs of glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
  • An estimated 61 million adults in the United States are at high risk for severe vision loss, but only half visited an eye doctor in the past 12 months.

Great News for People with Diabetic Vision Problems!

Here’s the news brief4 from the National Eye Institute (NEI):

This National Diabetes Month(November 2015), there is some good news for people with eye complications from diabetes. Earlier this month, a network of researchers supported by the National Eye Institute (NEI) found that the drug Lucentis (ranibizumab) can be highly effective for treating proliferative diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease that can occur as a complication of diabetes. The researchers, part of the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network, say this is the first major advance in therapy in 40 years.

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness among working-age Americans. An advanced stage, called proliferative diabetic retinopathy, occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow near the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. These new vessels can leak blood, which can obscure vision and damage the retina. Lucentis is one of several drugs called VEGF inhibitors that can block this process.

In the new study, Lucentis was compared to scatter laser therapy (or panretinal photocoagulation), which has been the standard treatment for proliferative diabetic retinopathy since the 1970s. Although laser therapy is effective in improving central vision, it can cause decreased night and side vision. The study found that Lucentis produced more improvement in central vision and little change in side vision when compared to laser therapy.

An injection into the eye might sound scary, but it’s one of the most common procedures performed by ophthalmologists. VEGF5 inhibitors have been used for several years to treat diabetic macular edema, a swelling of the retina that can occur as blood leaks around it. The new study suggests that VEGF drugs may even help prevent macular edema. Study participants who were treated with Lucentis were less likely to develop macular edema than those treated with laser therapy.

Early diagnosis is the key to Prevent Diabetic Eye Problems

Preventing Vision Loss from Diabetes: 5 Keys & A New Drug

Kick the smoking habit to help prevent diabetic eye problems.

As better treatments for diabetic retinopathy emerge, it’s important to remember that an early diagnosis is the first step to getting treatment and saving your sight. If you have diabetes, you should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Diabetic retinopathy often has no symptoms in its early stages. But an eye care professional can detect it before symptoms occur. And with early detection and appropriate treatment, the risk of severe vision loss from the disease can be reduced by 95 percent.

“Only about half of all people with diabetes get an annual comprehensive dilated eye exam, which is essential for detecting diabetic eye disease early when it is most treatable,” said NEI Director Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D.

Keeping diabetes under control is also key to preventing vision loss. If you have diabetes, NEI’s National Eye Health Education Program recommends these necessary steps to keep your health on TRACK:

  1. Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor.
  2. Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  3. Add physical activity to your daily routine.
  4. Control your ABC’s—A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
  5. Kick the smoking habit.

The NEI website has more information about diabetic retinopathy, and the  National Eye Health Education Program has materials for health professionals about diabetic retinopathy.

Enjoyed this post? Share it and read more here.  Questions?  “Ask the Pharmacist a Question!” Jay Harold is always looking out for your health and wealth.

Please take this advice of  Muhammad Ali and give back to others. Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” ~ Muhammad Ali




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