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Diabetic foot patients should be wary of diabetic retinopathy
  • By Constance Williams
  • Published 2017.10.24 15:46
  • Updated 2017.10.24 15:46
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A research team at the Seoul National University Bundang Hospital has confirmed that diabetic foot patients have a higher probability to develop diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness, the hospital said Tuesday.

The incidence and prevalence of diabetes are rapidly increasing, and about 100 million people worldwide and 5 to 8 percent of the total population in Korea are estimated to have diabetes.

The reasons for the rapid increase in the incidence of diabetes in Korea are environmental factors such as consuming Westernized dishes, a decrease in physical activity, excessive stress, and prolonged life expectancy.

Chronic complications due to diabetes are retinopathy, which causes abnormalities in the retina of the eye, nephropathy that causes kidney disease, and neuropathy that causes nerve damages throughout the body. Also, narrowed or clogged blood vessels can develop heart and cerebrovascular diseases.

Of these complications, diabetic retinopathy is a peripheral circulatory disorder that causes damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina). At first, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems, but it can eventually cause blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy is divided into non-proliferative and proliferative diabetic retinopathy. The non-proliferative state is an early stage of diabetic retinopathy where tiny blood vessels within the retina leak blood or fluid, causing the retina to swell or to form deposits.

As the disease progresses, diabetic retinopathy enters the proliferative stage, where blood vessels grow. The lack of oxygen in the retina causes fragile, new blood vessels to grow along the retina and in the clear, gel-like vitreous that fills the inside of the eye.

Comparison between non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (left) and proliferative diabetic retinopathy (right)

The university hospital team surveyed 100 patients with diabetic feet from 2004 to 2011, revealing diabetic retinopathy in 90 patients. With 55 patients suffering from proliferative diabetic retinopathy that could lead to blindness, it confirmed the theory that the risk of severe diabetic retinopathy is very high in diabetic foot patients.

According to the study, diabetic retinopathy was observed only in 5 percent of average diabetic patients, whereas in diabetic foot patients, 90 percent of diabetic retinopathy was associated with diabetic retinopathy. The team also noted that as diabetic kidney function decreases, diabetic retinopathy is more likely to occur.

"Both diabetic and diabetic retinopathy is complications of diabetes, so the relationship between the two diseases has been vaguely estimated,” said Professor Woo Seon-joo우세준, who led the research with two colleagues, Professors Lee Kyung-min이경민 and Choi Seung-hee최성희.

This study confirmed the high incidence of diabetic retinopathy in diabetic foot patients, so it is critical to detect and treat diabetic retinopathy early through periodic fundus examination once it is diagnosed as diabetes, Professor Woo added.


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