Medicine Might Help Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetics who take the drug rosiglitazone may significantly decrease the chance of visual impairments and blindness. This drug appears to fend off the common and troubling condition known as diabetic retinopathy.

Retinopathy results when blood vessels in the retina are damaged or become blocked, often resulting in vision loss, and sometimes blindness. Retinopathy resulting from diabetes is extremely common, with upwards of 50% of individuals suffering from diabetes for a decade or more, exhibiting some form of the condition.

According to the study, which analyzed 128 diabetic patients who were taking rosigilitazone against 158 diabetic patients not taking the medicine, rosigilitazone greatly reduced the risk of developing retinopathy. “At the beginning of the study, 14 eyes of those in the rosiglitazone group (6.4 percent) and 24 eyes of those in the control group (9.3 percent) had severe non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, an earlier stage of the disease in which new blood vessels have not yet developed. Among those, 7.7 percent of those in the rosiglitazone group and 29.2 percent of those in the control group progressed to proliferative diabetic retinopathy after one year. After three years, 19.2 percent in the rosiglitazone group and 47.4 percent in the control group had progressed from non-proliferative to proliferative diabetic retinopathy—a 59.5 percent relative risk reduction in the rosiglitazone group.” Other forms of vision loss besides retinopathy were of lower occurence as well for those taking rosigilitazone.

The study did not initially aim to show rosigilitazone reduced visual impairments, and the authors acknowledge that the results of the study are not definitive. “Because this study does not rigorously prove that rosiglitazone either reduces the incidence of proliferative diabetic retinopathy or prevents loss of visual acuity, and because there may be adverse effects from therapy, rosiglitazone treatment of patients with diabetes specifically to reduce these ophthalmic complications is not advocated at this time,” state the authors. Nonetheless, the results warrant follow-up research being performed, and hopefully it will be found that rosiglitazone does indeed help prevent diabetic retinopathy.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Jastive, Kira. JAMA news release. June 2008.