Eye disease is one of the most common complications of type 1 diabetes.
Eye disease in people with diabetes, also known as diabetic retinopathy, is caused by chronic high blood sugar levels, which can damage the blood vessels in the retina of the eye and cause excess blood vessel growth. Retinopathy can range from extremely mild to vision-threatening. One of the most common complications of retinopathy is diabetic macular edema, which results when fluid and protein build up on the retina and cause swelling and fluid leakage. Diabetic retinopathy, including diabetic macular edema, is the leading cause of adult-onset blindness.
Developing effective treatments for diabetic retinopathy is a key part of JDRF’s research goals. Until recently, the only treatment for diabetic macular edema was with lasers that often halted the worsening of the condition but did not improve a person’s eyesight. Now, however, a promising new treatment has emerged in the form of a drug called Lucentis (known generically as ranibizumab).
Lucentis, which is already approved for treatment of other eye disorders, has the potential to actually restore eyesight in people suffering from certain diabetic-related vision loss. It works by suppressing the growth of new blood vessels that cause swelling and leakage in the retina. Lucentis is administered through injections to the eye. In August, the FDA announced that it would approve Lucentis for use in treating diabetic macular edema.
In the video below, JDRF’s Dr. Helen Nickerson discusses this promising development and JDRF’s key role in funding the basic research that ultimately led to the discovery and development of Lucentis preceding its approval by the FDA.