Cholesterol Drugs May Slow Diabetic Vision Loss, Study Finds

1059322_eyeA five-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that both blood sugar control and a combination of cholesterol-lowering lipid drugs were effective in slowing the progression of diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of blindness in American adults.

More than 10,000 patients participated in the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) study, which aimed to determine whether a combination of complementary strategies can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke associated with diabetes. While the results were mixed for cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke, results were more positive for the eye study. A subset of nearly 3,000 patients participated in the ACCORD Eye Study. The study found that a combination of cholesterol-lowering statins and fibrins slowed the progression of eye disease by one third. Blood sugar control also reduced the progression of eye disease by one third.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when blood vessels in the retina change and become damaged as a result of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Although the disease may present no symptoms or mild vision impairment at first, it can eventually lead to blindness. Surgery is an option for certain patients with this condition, but it won’t prevent future impairment from occurring. Some companies working to manage or treat diabetic retinopathy include:

Inoveon Corporation: A company focused on diabetic eye disease. Inoveon offers the iScan product to detect, monitor and treat diabetes-related eye conditions such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. The system images different images of the eye in 3-D for analysis by the patient’s primary care physician.

EyeTel Imaging uses a retinal imaging device to determine a diabetes patient’s risk of vision loss from diabetic retinopathy. Early detection and treatment can reduce diabetes-related vision loss. To learn more about EyeTel, read our related post on predictive medicine.

ScyFix: The Minnesota-based company is developing technologies to help patients with degenerative eye diseases. Although the company is initially focused on macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, ScyFix’s micro-current neuromodulation therapy may also have applications to diabetic retinopathy.

OptiMedica has developed  PASCAL, an FDA-approved photocoagulation device to treat eye disorders such as diabetic retinopathy. Photocoagulation user laser light to coagulate leaking blood vessels and prevent further growth of damaged tissue.

Diabetes is on the rise in the United States, with the New York Times reporting a 50 percent increase in Type 2 diabetes since 2001. Diagnoses of Type 1 diabetes have approximately doubled since the 1980s and are increasing at a rate of 3 percent per year. With the increase in diabetes among Americans, innovative ways to monitor and treat diabetic retinopathy will be needed. What are some promising strategies you’ve heard about?

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