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Diabetes-Related Eye Disorder Signals Stroke Risk

Damage to the retina that sometimes comes with diabetes is associated with an increased risk of having a stroke, researchers report. Dr. Tien Y. Wong stated that, "Diabetes can exert its effects on multiple organs in the body, and damage in the blood vessels seen in the eye — retinopathy — is a marker of probably unseen damage occurring elsewhere. "Blood vessel damage in the eye is linked to blood vessel damage in the brain, heralding the onset of a stroke."

Wong, at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues conducted a population-based study involving 1617 middle-aged people with diabetes. At the start of the study, 197 participants had moderate retinopathy and 44 had severe retinopathy, the team reports in the American Heart Associations journal Stroke.

During an average follow-up of almost 8 years, 75 strokes occurred in the group as a whole.

After making allowances for various stroke risk factors — such as blood pressure, insulin treatment and cholesterol levels — having diabetic retinopathy more than doubled the likelihood of having a stroke.

"For eye care professionals — ophthalmologists and optometrists," concluded Wong, the findings show "that if you detect retinopathy in a person who has diabetes, that person may require a more comprehensive assessment of their stroke risk."
Stroke, February 2007.

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DID YOU KNOW:

Women show pre-diabetes heart risk sooner than men: Women with "pre-diabetes" may show signs of impending heart trouble long before the same warning signs show up in men, a new study suggests.  In the new study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, researchers found that women, but not men, showed certain markers of blood-vessel abnormalities an average of 6 years before developing pre-diabetes.  It’s known that women with diabetes have a higher risk of heart disease than their male counterparts do, and the new study raises the question of whether early circulatory abnormalities contribute to women’s greater risks.  Among these subjects with pre-diabetes, women but not men had shown generally higher blood levels of a protein involved in blood clotting and of two proteins that indicate reduced elasticity of blood vessels — a problem known as endothelial dysfunction.  Diabetes Care, February 2007.