ICYMI: Researchers Explore the Correlation Between Diabetic Retinopathy and Cardiovascular Disease


According to a recent article in Medscape News, myocardial infarction (coronary artery blockage) and cerebrovascular incidents (stroke) have a direct correlation to diabetic retinopathy. The risk doubles when the diabetic retinopathy is severe.

About Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes, is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. adult population.

Patients may experience swelling, leakage, or other changes caused by damage to blood vessels in the retina. Swelling to the retinal tissues causes blurred vision.

The retina, a light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye, allows us to capture fine detail. The blood vessels in the retina are damaged by high sugar levels characteristic of diabetes. Generally, both eyes are affected.

Note that some people with the disease may have new, normal blood vessels growing on the exterior of their retina.

Early in the disease, people may not experience any change in vision. However, diabetic retinopathy is a progressive disease and may eventually cause loss of vision.

About the Study

Previous studies have confirmed the connection between diabetic retinopathy and increased risk of cardiovascular changes in the retina.

Yet, according to Dr. Bobeck Modjtahedi of SoCal Permanente, Pasadena, those studies were small and not conclusive. For his new study, Dr. Modjtahedi and his team studied data from type 2 diabetes patients enrolled in health plans at Kaiser Permanente for the five-year period following their retinopathy evaluation.

Patients were excluded from the study if they had the following pre-existing conditions: myocardial infarctions, cerebrovascular events, or congestive heart failure.

The study group, each patient undergoing retinal assessment, consisted of 68,206 patients. Data were collected in accordance with the number of deaths and myocardial and cerebrovascular events that occurred during the five year study. The data included the following:

  • 1680 (2.5%) myocardial infarctions
  • 2269 (3.3%) cerebrovascular accidents
  • 3756 (5.5%) deaths

According to Dr. Modjtahedi, the correlation was evident when assessing the risk of cardiovascular events and death. Those with the most serious retinopathy were also most at risk.

Dr. Modjtahedi stressed the importance of general practitioners and ophthalmologists coordinating efforts in the care of these patients. He said that the findings can also be used for educational purposes.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia four years ago. He was treated with a methylating agent While he was being treated with a hypomethylating agent, Rose researched investigational drugs being developed to treat relapsed/refractory AML.

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