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Eye Disease Before Diabetes?

Source: Diabetes Forecast, November 2005

Type 2

Eye disease (retinopathy) commonly associated with diabetes may actually develop in people before the diabetes itself, say researchers in a followup study to the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP).

In the follow-up, the researchers found that nearly 8 percent of participants with pre-diabetes had retinopathy.

“This adds to our understanding of the development of retinopathy and suggests that changes in the eye may be starting earlier and at lower glucose levels than we previously thought,” says Richard Hamman, MD, DrPh, professor and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver and vice chair of the DPP. “These observations may lead diabetes experts to reconsider the diagnostic thresholds used to define diabetes, which are based on levels of blood glucose associated with the development of eye, nerve, and kidney complications.”

Researchers also found that among participants who were diagnosed with diabetes during the DPP, 12 percent had developed retinopathy by the time the new study was underway. The DPP ended in 2001, so this means they developed retinopathy early in the course of their diabetes.

The message here is that if you’ve been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, don’t wait to get screened for retinopathy.