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Vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk of diabetes-associated eye disease

September 26, 2014

According to a new study from China, vitamin D deficiency may double the risk of diabetic retinopathy.

The observational study measured the blood vitamin D concentrations of 1,520 patients with type 2 diabetes who had no retinopathy, non-sight threatening retinopathy or sight-threatening retinopathy (1). The study results showed that vitamin D deficiency was an independent risk factor for diabetic retinopathy and sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy: patients with a vitamin D level less than 15.57 ng/ml doubled the risk for sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy. Lower vitamin D levels were significantly related to increased severity of diabetic retinopathy.

The researchers noted that vitamin D receptors on beta-cells in the pancreas, the cells responsible for producing insulin, suggest that vitamin D plays a role in type 2 diabetes and healthy insulin secretion in general. Research on vitamin D’s effect on specific diabetic complications remains relatively scarce. Eye problems are common among those with type 2 diabetes and can lead to vision loss or complete blindness. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common form of diabetic eye disease and is a main cause behind blindness in American adults. In diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels in the eyes swell or become blocked all together. Eye disease is just one complication that can arise from type 2 diabetes. Damage to the nerves in the feet and heart disease are other serious issues associated with type 2 diabetes.

References

  1. He R. et al. Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of retinopathy in Chinese patients with Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Medicine. Published online September 2014.