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Vitamin D deficiency may increase risk of diabetes-associated eye disease

Posted on: September 10, 2014   by  Vitamin D Council


New research published in Diabetes Medicine has found that vitamin D deficiency may double the risk of diabetic retinopathy.

Eye problems are common among those with type 2 diabetes and can lead to vision loss or complete blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common form of diabetic eye disease and is a main cause behind blindness in American adults.

In diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels in the eyes swell or become blocked all together. New blood vessels in the retina can also form that shouldn’t be there.

Eye disease is just one complication that can arise from type 2 diabetes. Damage to the nerves in the feet and heart disease are other serious issues associated with type 2 diabetes.

Vitamin D receptors on beta-cells in the pancreas, the cells responsible for producing insulin, suggest that vitamin D plays a role in type 2 diabetes and healthy insulin secretion, in general. Research on vitamin D’s effect on specific diabetic complications remains relatively scarce.

Recently, researchers out of China conducted a study to determine vitamin D’s role in diabetic retinopathy.

They recruited 1,520 patients with type 2 diabetes and grouped them based on if they had no retinopathy, non-sight threatening retinopathy, or sight-threatening retinopathy.

The researchers then measured the vitamin D levels of all participants and ran analyses to see how vitamin D related to risk and severity of diabetic retinopathy.

They found that lower vitamin D levels were significantly related to increased severity of diabetic retinopathy.

A further analysis suggested that a vitamin D level less than 15.57 ng/ml doubled the risk for sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy.

“Vitamin D deficiency is an independent risk factor for diabetic retinopathy and sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy,” the researchers concluded.


He, R. et al. Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of retinopathy in Chinese patients with Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Medicine, 2014.

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