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Preventing complications goes beyond watching your blood sugar

September 4, 2012 in News

Watching your blood pressure is a good idea for anyone, but is especially important for those with diabetes. High blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol are two of the most common conditions that are comorbid with diabetes; according to the CDC, about 13 percent of U.S. adults are living with a combination of two of the three conditions.

Since hypertension and diabetes so often occur together, many researchers have been looking in to how the two conditions affect each other. Diabetes and high blood pressure have some complications in common, and when someone has both conditions, these complications can be more severe or occur more quickly.

One research team, working out of the University of Georgia, decided to look into how hypertension affects the development of one of the significant complications of diabetes – diabetic retinopathy.

The team studied the combination of the two conditions by using rats. They compared rats with hypertension only to rats that had both hypertension and diabetes, and to rats without either condition. The rats that had both conditions developed damage to their eyes much faster than either of the other two groups.

The researchers noticed cell death in the retinas of the rats with both diabetes and hypertension within the first six weeks of high blood pressure. As early as 10 weeks after the diabetic rats developed high blood pressure, the small blood vessels that supply blood to the retina were beginning to decay. When these small vessels start to break down, the retina does not get enough blood flow, and as a consequence cells in the retina die, leading to vision problems.

Both diabetes and hypertension are known to cause inflammation in various tissues in the body; this inflammation is a contributing factor to the breakdown of small blood vessels such as those in the retina. The researchers found that the chemical mechanism leading to this inflammation in diabetes interacts with that found with hypertension. When the two conditions occur together, retinal damage occurs must faster than in either condition alone.

Keeping tight control of your blood sugar and blood pressure levels helps prevent or delay this damage; the earlier interventions for both conditions start, the better.

The original news release by ScienceDaily can be found on their website. You can also access the journal article from Molecular Vision.

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