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Surgical benefits

Bariatric surgery may help halt diabetic blindness

Analysing retinal scans suggested that bariatric surgery may be able to help improve microvascular complications. Photo: Flickr / Eliya
Some diabetic patients show improvement in retinopathy after bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgery may improve microvascular complications in type 2 diabetes patients, potentially preventing blindness and renal problems, according to a paper published in Diabetes Care.

Analysis of retinal photographs from 84 patients who underwent gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and gastric band operations showed that 91% had no change in retinal disease 12-18 months after surgery, and 7.5% demonstrated improvement.

In the group of 28 who had been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy pre-operatively, five (17.8%) demonstrated improvement over the same time period, one deteriorated, and 22 (78.6%) had no change.

For the study, 84 patients (67% of whom were female) were analysed by an ophthalmologist and assigned a numerical retinopathy score based on their retinal disease severity. Improvement or deterioration was defined as a decrease or increase of two grades, respectively.

The authors say that bariatric surgery’s apparent power to halt and even reverse microvascular complications is “encouraging”, but larger randomised, controlled trials are needed to confirm their findings.

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