FEB 03, 2018 11:03 AM PST

High Blood Sugar Harms Blood Vessels in the Eyes, Kidneys, Heart

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Individuals with type 1 diabetes often have additional problems with their eyes, kidneys, heart, and other organs due to high levels of blood glucose characteristic of the condition. For those with chronic kidney disease, a high risk of heart disease usually follows, but a new study shows that a rare eye condition is also linked to a risk for heart disease independently of kidney disease.

Human beta cells and insulin granules. Credit: Wikimedia user Wikimaji

From the Joslin Diabetes Center, researchers are studying proliferative diabetic retinopathy, a condition where small blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina and tend to bleed, causing vision loss. It seems that the risk of heart disease that accompanies proliferative diabetic retinopathy works via different mechanisms than the risk of heart disease associated with kidney disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people with type 1 diabetes.

"[This] suggests that biological factors that either protect against or boost damage to blood vessels are shared between the eye and cardiovascular system, but they may be different from those affecting the kidney,” explained corresponding author George King, MD.

The issue with studying the independent link between proliferative diabetic retinopathy and heart disease is that people with type 1 diabetes who also have chronic kidney disease also usually have eye problems. But thanks to the Joslin Medalist program, study researchers were able to identify 30 people - out of hundreds who have had type 1 diabetes for more than 50 years - with chronic kidney disease but not severe eye disease.

They found that high blood glucose levels do not inflict damage to all blood vessels the same way. For example, nerve damage and eye damage in individuals with type 1 diabetes are independently linked to heart disease.

In the future, the study researchers plan to study heart scans from patients with long-term type 1 diabetes, hoping to find detailed information about the various links to heart disease and other complications associated with type 1 diabetes.

"We hope that will give us the next set of clues to understand and guard against these complications," King said.

Experts estimate that more than one million Americans have type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease characterized by an “accidental” immune attack on beta cells, which produce insulin. This is a hormone that controls blood glucose levels.

The present study was published in the journal Diabetes Care.

Sources: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Diabetes Association, JDRF, Joslin Diabetes Center

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 19, 2019
Cardiology
JUN 19, 2019
TAVR Procedure Shares Spotlight With Rock Legend
While legendary rockstar Mick Jagger recently underwent a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) at a hospital in New York, many are not candidates...
JUN 24, 2019
Cardiology
JUN 24, 2019
Workplace Wellness Programs Fall Short
Today, workplace wellness programs are offered by most large employers. They may be presented as part of an employee benefits package. These wellness progr...
AUG 13, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
AUG 13, 2019
Novel Drug Target for Dilating Microvessels
Medical scientists at Augusta University have discovered a natural occurring chemical that dilates blood vessels dilate as well as signaling larger blood v...
AUG 29, 2019
Cardiology
AUG 29, 2019
Childhood Cancer Survivors Prone to Cardiac Events
A new study published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation explores the relationship between childhood cancer, metabolic conditions ...
OCT 04, 2019
Cardiology
OCT 04, 2019
Heart Attacks Without The Risk
Following a heart attack, as the heart heals, scar tissue forms. This issue is less flexible than healthy heart tissue and may encumber the heart's abi...
OCT 10, 2019
Cardiology
OCT 10, 2019
Parkinson's Disease is Present in the Blood
Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system. Often starting with a barely noticeable tremor in one hand, the disease affects a...
Loading Comments...