[ Nutrition ]

Nerve and Blood Vessel Damage

Results from comprehensive assessments of diabetes’ effects on cell metabolism may aid efforts to reduce diabetic damage to nerves, blood vessels and other tissues, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Damaged blood vessels are more likely to build up plaque, increasing the risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke. Diabetic retinophathy can lead to poor vision and even blindness. Diabetic eye conditions often develop without any noticeable loss of vision or pain, so significant damage may have occurred by the time patients notice any symptoms. Annual checkups lead to early discovery and prevention of further damage. This is because increased blood glucose levels can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries), which can lead to a stroke when it affects the arteries that supply blood to your brain. Many people with Type 2 diabetes already have some degree of complications when they are diagnosed.

Several different mechanisms have been described – and these are likely interrelated – but the exact contribution from each of the factors remains unclear. It occurs over time and is a result of high blood glucose levels, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. Narrowing may occur over many years without any sensation until a severe obstruction is present or the severely narrowed artery is completely blocked by a blood clot and a heart attack occurs. Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include: Seeing spots or floaters in your field of visionBlurred visionHaving a dark or empty spot in the center of your visionDifficulty seeing well at night In patients with diabetes, prolonged periods of high blood sugar can lead to the accumulation of fluid in the lens inside the eye that controls eye focusing. “Mice don’t get atherosclerosis unless their normal cholesterol metabolism is changed,” notes Christian Rask-Madsen, M.D., Ph.D., a research associate in the Nunnally Hoppes lab and lead author on the paper. It is the leading cause of blindness among adults in the United States, and people with untreated diabetes are said to 25 times more prone to blindness than the general population. As part of the CAREER educational component, Clyne’s lab is conducting an outreach program with the Girl Scouts, including a “Science Saturdays” program at Drexel, bringing in junior high school-age scouts for up to six Saturdays to teach them about different kinds of engineering, and how engineering applications can solve human health problems.

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