Diabetes Threatens Kidneys, Vision of Millions of Americans

From Drugs.com - September 13, 2017

Diabetes Threatens Kidneys, Vision of Millions of Americans

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 13, 2017 -- Millions of Americans with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes are at risk for chronic kidney disease, and another 59,000 Americans, 40 and older, are at risk for diabetes-related blindness.

That's the sobering conclusion of new research by investigators at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The good news is that, in many cases, these complications can be reversed or their progression slowed, said Dr. Joel Zonszein. He's director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. He was not involved with the new study.

"When we talk about prevention, we are really talking not about disease prevention, but rather about sustaining good quality of life by delaying more complications," he said. "We can prevent complications by changes in lifestyle and the correct medications," Zonszein added.

In fact, many patients with diabetes for more than 40 to 50 years have none or minimal complications and a normal lifestyle, he noted.

But the only way to prevent or slow the complications of diabetes is to diagnose them early and to aggressively control blood sugar levels, Zonszein said.

"Unfortunately, we have the other side of the coin -- those uninvolved and unengaged with their disease, with untreated diabetes that go down a slippery road and go down fast, developing complications that are hard to slow down," he explained.

"This study is a warning to people who already started having complications," Zonszein said.

According to the report, slightly more than 30 million Americans have type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes can take a toll on the body's circulatory system, especially the tiniest blood vessels, according to Dr. Gerald Bernstein. He's an endocrinologist and coordinator of the Friedman Diabetes Program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

That's why diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, said Bernstein. He added it's also why chronic kidney disease is a major risk factor for serious heart disease, stroke and death.

In addition, damage to the small blood vessels in the eyes leads to a condition called diabetic retinopathy, which can eventually cause loss of sight, explained Bernstein, who also was not involved in the new study

The researchers used data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) for 2005-2008. A team led by CDC researcher Meda Pavkov found nearly 400 adults with both diabetes and chronic kidney disease. More than 36 percent of this group also had diabetic retinopathy.

More than 8 percent had diabetic retinopathy so serious that it threatened their vision, the researchers found.


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