When blood sugar is high and continues to be high, the blood vessels can become damaged — and the blood vessels in the eyes are no different.
Diabetes can lead to diabetic retinopathy, which occurs when the tiny blood vessels in the retina become damaged. Diabetic retinopathy is considered the leading cause of vision loss and is estimated to affect around 7.7 million Americans.
"This study sends a powerful message to people with type 2 diabetes who worry about losing vision," said lead study author Dr. Emily Chew, deputy director of the National Eye Institute's (NEI) Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications, in a press release. "Well-controlled glycemia, or blood sugar level, has a positive, measurable, and lasting effect on eye health.”
This study is a follow-up from the ACCORD study and is referred to as the ACCORDION. This follow-up study reassessed diabetic retinopathy about four years post-ACCORD study. Researchers found that patients who received intensive glucose control had a reduced risk for diabetic retinopathy. In fact, their risk was cut in half.
The study suggests that lowering blood sugar can slow the progression of eye disease.
These researchers did note that the benefits of intensive sugar control must outweigh the potential risks. In the ACCORD trial, there was an increased risk of death in the patient group who received intensive glucose control. Speak with your doctor about your blood sugar and A1C goals.
These results were presented at the American Diabetes Association's annual meeting and published in the journal Diabetes Care. The NEI supported this study. Information on potential conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.