New Hope For Preventing and Treating Diabetic Retinopathy

Monthly Research Update

New Hope For Preventing and Treating Diabetic Retinopathy

Each month, the UCI Diabetes Center provides an update on current and significant diabetes research, guided by our program director, Dr. Ping H. Wang.

The focus this month is on research that gives new hope for type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients who suffer from diabetic retinopathy (DR), considered to be one of the most disabling complication of diabetes, and the leading cause of blindness. Every day in the United States, 75 people will go blind because of diabetes.

  • In the United States, 8 million people have diabetic retinopathy, and it is estimated that by the year 2030, this number will increase to 11.3 million.
  • Diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in the tiny blood vessels in the eye. They may swell and leak fluid. Also, abnormal new blood vessels may grow on the surface of the retina, which is light sensitive tissue in the back of the eye.
  • A particular type of lipids, which are fat, are an important factor in the health of the retina. Dr. Julia Busik has discovered a new link between lipids and diabetic retinopathy.
  • Dr. Busik has unexpectedly discovered good lipids that she calls “long -chain” lipids, that may protect the eye from developing DR. She hopes, that with further research, these lipids can be further developed into new medications such as injections or even eye drops.

Blood sugar control and regular eye examinations are of paramount importance for avoiding diabetic retinopathy.


According to Dr. Wang

According to American Diabetes Association guidelines, adults with type 1 diabetes should have a comprehensive eye exam within five years of disease onset and that those with type 2 diabetes should have an exam at the time of diagnosis.  If there is no evidence of retinopathy at one or more annual eye exams, then exams every two years is recommended.

The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute at UCI provides comprehensive eye screening and cutting-edge therapy for diabetes patients.

Diabetes Center scientists are investigating how diabetes causes complications such as retinopathy, and we are studying protein targets in the cells that can be used toward the development of novel therapies to better control glucose and prevent complications.

Read more on Dr. Busik’s research.

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