Diabetes causes blindness, is a cure coming?

25 Apr

Diabetes and Blindness by Dr. John Henahan with Spectrum EyecareType 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease whereby a person’s own immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin, destroying them.  When insulin is not produced, the person cannot control their blood sugar and it climbs ever higher without use of synthetic insulin from shots or a pump. In many patients with diabetes, vision loss and even blindness can result.

HealthDay (4/8, Gordon) reported that, according to a study published online April 8 in the journal Immunity, researchers from the University of Calgary “have successfully reversed type 1 diabetes in mice using a new vaccine technology that appears to solely target the immune system cells responsible for the disease.”

By “using a ‘nanotechnology-based’ vaccine, the researchers were able to boost the effects of the weaker immune cells, which allowed them to stop the damaging immune cells from attacking.” So, “instead of directly attacking the stronger cells, the autoregulatory T cells turn off the signal that tells the stronger immune cells to attack, effectively stopping the destruction of the beta cells that allow the body to produce it’s own insulin.”

According to Reuters (4/9, Steenhuysen), the study’s findings may help researchers find new ways how to manage other autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Diabetes is the number one cause of vision loss in children and adults under age 65, according to optometrist Dr. John Henahan.  Therefore, any movement toward a cure for diabetes represents reason for celebration for health care workers and patients alike.

At Spectrum Eyecare in Peachtree City, Dr Henahan reports that all patients are screened for diabetes (and high blood pressure) during their annual eye exam.  Any patients with diabetes receive special additional testing during their exam, including high quality retinal photography to look for signs of this condition.

In diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels in the retina (which is similar to the film in a camera), begin to bleed and leak.  As blood and other fluid spill into the retina, the fluid is absorbed causing the retina to swell. Just as a swollen ankle does not function properly, a swollen retina does not function properly.  However, using the analogy of the ankle swelling, as the swelling there goes down, the ankle function returns to normal.  However, in the retina, as the swelling goes down, the retina never functions normally again.  A malfunctioning retina means blurred vision….permanantly.

That reiterates the importance of regular eye exams in patients with diabetes.  It is imperative to catch problems early and to use appropriate treatments to seal off leaking blood vessels BEFORE vision loss occurs.

If you or a loved one has diabetes, either type 1 or type 2 and you have not had a complete eye exam with eye health assessment in the past year, please contact us.  We would be glad to see you and we accept almost all medical insurance plans.  As an aside, when you are diabetic, you do not need a vision plan in order to have an eye examination.  We can file the exam through your medical insurance (co-pays and deductibles still apply, however).

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One Response to “Diabetes causes blindness, is a cure coming?”

  1. Margret Langehennig December 29, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    If you have type 2 diabetes, your body will respond by producing an excess quantity of chemicals which keeps your body from utilizing insulin properly. Your body is generating insulin it’s just not working the way it ought to be. This is recognized as insulin resistance.Kind 2 diabetes can have a huge negative effect on your body. As time progresses, with out management, eventually your pancreas will start to stop working as it need to, making less and less insulin… until there’s not sufficient insulin to do the job.

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