While diabetes can increase your risk of several eye diseases, including glaucoma, a popular class of diabetes medications may actually prevent the debilitating eye condition, according to a groundbreaking new study.
Researchers in the Scheie Eye Institute at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, found medications such as Trulicity and Rybelsus may also protect against glaucoma in diabetic patients.
The findings, which have been published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, revealed researchers looked at retrospective data of 1,961 diabetic patients who were new users of this class of drugs and matched them to 4,371 unexposed control subjects.
After 150 days on average, 10 patients in the medicated group were newly diagnosed with glaucoma (0.5 per cent) compared to 58 patients (1.3 per cent) in the control group. The findings suggest that GLP-1 receptor agonists (medicine for type 2 diabetes) may halve a diabetics patient’s risk of developing glaucoma.
The findings are supported by a Penn Medicine study from 2020, which found that GLP-1 receptor agonists reduced neuroinflammation (an inflammatory response within the brain or spinal cord) and prevented retinal ganglion cell death in mice. They also found that these types of drugs have shown similarly protective effects against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in animal models.
“It was very encouraging to see that a popular diabetes medication could significantly reduce the risk of developing glaucoma, and our study suggests that these medications warrant further study in this patient population,” University of Pennsylvania researcher Brian VanderBeek said.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60 and affects 300,000 Australians. It occurs when the optic nerve is damaged, leading to a build-up of pressure within the eye.
Anyone can develop glaucoma, but it is more common in those living with diabetes. If left untreated, it can lead to blindness. Unfortunately, there are no easy-to-spot red flags for glaucoma unless you’re an optometrist. You can read more about the eye condition and how to prevent it here.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.