Protected From Diabetic Eye Disease

Photo: Eye

Diabetic retinopathy refers to a
number of vision abnormalities;
© Brugger

The study focuses on a group of patients known as "50-year Medalists". Diabetic retinopathy (DR) refers to a number of vision abnormalities that are all related to damage to the blood vessels in the eye caused by high blood glucose levels. It is the most common and one of the most serious complications of diabetes, affecting nearly 90 percent of people who have had T1D for at least 20 years.

Although some treatment options exist for those with more advanced forms of the disease, DR remains the leading cause of vision loss among working age adults in the United States and other developed countries worldwide. The fact that approximately 40 per cent of Medalists are relatively unaffected by such a common complication led researchers in this study to evaluate whether these Medalists developed DR and then experienced regression or lack of progression, or never developed significant DR at all.

"Joslin's attempt to characterise diabetic retinopathy is an important starting point for preventing or treating this complication of T1D," said Helen Nickerson. "The understanding that these Medalists have been relatively unaffected by such a common complication leads us to infer that there may be biological or genetic protective factors that could be utilised to benefit other people with type 1 diabetes."

"The results we received from looking at this special group of patients led to some very interesting findings," said Doctor Jennifer Sun. "In Medalists who did not develop advanced DR, there was no evidence of substantial DR regression, but the progression of retinopathy seems to slow after about four years in comparison to those who do develop advanced DR. Further, after about two decades, the process of DR worsening essentially seems to halt. It is this halting of disease progression that we will be studying as we move forward to identify the factors that result in protection against long-term complications in the 50-year Medalists."; Source: Joslin Diabetes Centre