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Here is a troubling finding that you will want to discuss with your opthamologist and cardiologist: Type 2 diabetics who already have retinopathy when they are diagnosed are 2.5 times more likely to develop heart failure than type 2’s who are diagnosed without it.
That is the conclusion of a nine-year study, published in the April 22 Journal of the American College of Cardiology, that tracked more than 1,000 middle-aged type 2s. An international team of scientists from Australia, Singapore and the United States conducted it.
The study focused on retinopathy as a risk factor by eliminating any participants who had kidney or coronary heart disease, two major risk factors in heart failure. At the start of the study, 125 participants had been diagnosed with retinopathy. Nine years later, 27 of them – 21.6 percent – had developed heart failure. The incidence in those without retinopathy was 8.5 percent.
Just 125 of the participants had diabetic retinopathy at the start of the study. After nine years, heart failure was diagnosed in 27 of them, an incidence of 21.6 percent. The incidence in those without the eye condition was 8.5 percent.
Need for Greater Patient Vigilance
Dr. Hector O. Ventura, director of the cardiology residency program at the Ochsner Health System in New Orleans, and co-author of an accompanying editorial in the journal, says the study shows that, “Patients with diabetic retinopathy need to be more vigilant in looking for the development of heart failure.”
He said that although the study adds considerably to evidence that there is a link between retinopathy and heart failure, its nature is not yet clear. In retinopathy, tiny blood vessels in the eyes begin to leak or overgrow, while heart failure is marked by that organ’s progressive inability to pump blood.
This is not the first time a link between retinopathy and heart failure has been suspected. Twenty years ago a long-running study of residents in Framingham, Mass., pointed to a relationship between the two conditions. Subsequent studies have suggested the same.
(Editor’s Note: The irony about retinopathy is that genes may play as large a role in the condition as bad control. In fact, some people who exercise excellent blood glucose control can still develop retinopathy – an outcome that scientists suspect may come from a genetic predisposition. On the other hand, some people have terrible control and never develop retinopathy.
We hope that any of you who have experienced both retinopathy and heart trouble could tell us about how you’ve handled those conditions and kept all of your doctors in touch with one another.)
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.