Can metformin help with macular degeneration?

The diabetes drug, which normalizes blood sugar levels, aided people with diabetes lower their probabilities of evolving age-linked macular degeneration, which is a primary reason for vision loss.

Metformin has recognized itself as the medicine of choice for the first-line treatment of type 2 diabetes. Besides depressing blood sugar, the drug may lengthen lives, lower high blood pressure, lower heart risks. It also delivers other health welfares.

According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2015, about 30.3 million Americans had diabetes. The seventh leading cause of death in the United States is diabetes. Researchers have revealed that persons who use metformin to treat type 2 diabetes have a considerably lower age-related macular degeneration (AMD) rate as compared to those who don’t use this drug.

What the study found

Dr. Yu-Yen Chen, Ph.D., of the Department of Ophthalmology, Taichung Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan was the chief scientist of the study. She and her team found that almost half as many patients who used metformin had AMD in comparison to those who did not use it.

Scientists from the health institutions in Taiwan presented a research with these outcomes at the 2018 American Academy of Ophthalmology conference in Chicago.

Using the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database, Chen and her team composed data on over 68,000 patients just diagnosed with type 2 diabetes from January 2001 to December 2013 She divided the patients into those who took metformin, 45,524 people, and those who did not, 22,681 people. After following these groups for 13 years, the researchers recognized the fall in the occurrence of macular degeneration to the use of metformin.

“Our research is the first to disclose the protective aspects of metformin on the AMD development,” said Chen in a free declaration by the American College of Ophthalmology.

How macular degeneration affects sight

Macular degeneration damages a definite part in the retina called macula. The macula captures images we see and transfers those descriptions to the brain through the optic nerve. The National Eye Institute defines the macula as the eye portion required for sharp and central vision. It lets us see things which are straight ahead.

As the macula damages, vision becomes wavy or blurry, and may also lead to total vision loss. There is no identified treatment for macular degeneration. According to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation AMD occurs mostly in persons over age 55. The writers note that the AMD risk was much greater in patients older than 70 compared with those younger than 50. “Every span of your life, chances of developing macular degeneration rise,” says Fromer. “Each decade of life your retinal function declines.”

According to a study in Clinical Ophthalmology AMD is one of the two most common retinal degenerative syndromes. Chen’s team states that individuals with hyperlipidemia, hypertension, obesity, coronary artery disease, and diabetic retinopathy also had a knowingly greater risk of developing AMD.

Though metformin may reduce the risk of AMD, the American Macular Degeneration Foundation also commends lifestyle changes like exercise, avoiding smoking, dieting, and protecting eyes from ultraviolet light.

What is metformin?

Metformin is usually used to treat type 2 diabetes. It’s perhaps the most recommended and cost-effective drug for diabetes, with over 120 million prescriptions worldwide.

It works by depressing the amount of sugar released by the body, and improving how the body reacts to sugar. It also supports developments in blood vessel lining dysfunction, lipid control, fat distribution, and oxidative stress. These further benefits lend themselves beyond metformin’s blood glucose effects by reducing hostile cardiovascular effects as well.

“Researches like this make me aggressive, even with prediabetic patients, and starting them earlier on metformin to prevent full-blown diabetes. It also has the additional advantage of preventing eye disease,” Courgi said.

Though this research provides us with information about well-known and tolerated medication which treats diabetes, Gorski does not believe he will use it for the avoidance of macular degeneration yet. “Further research will need to prospectively confirm the connection between metformin and macular degeneration before I will start to use it to treat macular degeneration,” he said. Gorski informed that if you feel any changes in “vision, blurriness, or visual disruption, it is essential to consult your eye doctor right away.”

Regardless of the commonness of diabetes and its control through medicines, the study is still being conducted on the other benefits of diabetes medications. Just, researchers at Mount Sinai have shown a probable connection between diabetes medication use and a reduction in Alzheimer’s disease severity.

Though the study directed in Taiwan does show promise, it does not completely show the cause and effect of metformin. Chen approved that “although further study is required to conclude how metformin defends against the progress of AMD, this is a stirring development for patients at risk.”

How can metformin help?

Researchers say that inflammation and oxidative stress play a crucial part in the development of both diabetes and AMD. They consider that the oxidative stress and suppression effects of metformin on inflammation is a probable reason for this advantage. Oxidative stress is a disorder in the stability between the creation of harmful free radicals and the body’s capacity to detoxify these radicles.

“As metformin have anti-oxidation and anti-inflammation properties, and it is related to offer that metformin may decrease AMD occurrence,” the study authors write. “We’ve known well about the advantages of controlling diabetes on microvascular difficulties,” said Dr. Robert Courgi, an endocrinologist at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, New York. “This research offers us better evidence.”

Macular degeneration is a consequence of photoreceptor cell death by the retina. And it is one of the top causes of blindness in the United States. According to the BrightFocus Foundation, there are now 11 million people in the United States with age-related macular degeneration. By the year 2050, this number is estimated to increase to 22 million. By 2040, professionals guess that nearly 288 million persons worldwide will have this disorder.

Before the start of the research, individuals in the metformin treatment group had a larger occurrence of systemic comorbidities with hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and coronary artery disease. But, after adjusting for age, gender, and these comorbidities, research presented a meaningfully lower risk of AMD in those individuals who used metformin.

“Though the results of research are surely remarkable, it is the first to show this relationship,” said Dr. Matthew Gorski, an ophthalmologist for Northwell Health in Great Neck, New York.

The bottom line

A recent research found that people with type 2 diabetes, who used the drug metformin, had a lesser risk of getting age-linked macular degeneration.

Researchers consider that the oxidative stress and suppression effects of metformin on inflammation is a probable reason for this advantage. However, more study is required before doctors can commend people without diabetes taking metformin.



Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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