Retina Problems and Chronic Kidney Disease

In another instance demonstrating the interconnectivity of people’s bodily systems, a study about eye problems has led to an observation about kidney disease. The Beaver Dam Eye Study, according to their own description, was designed to “collect information on the prevalence and incidence of age-related cataract, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.” But along the way, they also drew some conclusions about how disease of the kidneys, along with high blood pressure, can also affect the eyes.

Retinopathy, or the disease of the retina causing possible loss of vision, has always been associated with diabetes. But the researchers with the study learned that even those without diabetes can be at higher risk of retinopathy, if they have certain other health conditions. One was uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure), and the other was chronic kidney disease.

In 4,699 people between ages 43 and 86 (remember that this was an age-related study), the risk of experiencing retinopathy over a 15-year period was 14.2%. And in those study subjects who had either uncontrolled hypertension or chronic kidney disease, the risk of such negative effects on the eyes increased. That applied to subjects who were not diabetic, so the extra risk cannot be blamed on diabetes. In fact, several other things that one might have considered a real risk did not seem to factor in at all. These would include such things as smoking, body mass index (which would rule out obesity), or inflammation.

These interconnections shouldn’t be a surprise. Hypertension and kidney disease often do interact, and diabetes frequently involves extra complications such as high blood pressure and strain on the kidneys. People don’t always experience all three at the same time, but they are clearly related to each other. So it’s probably not a surprise that retinopathy – which is a very high risk for diabetics – can also factor into hypertension and kidney disease as well.

(Sources: Ocular Surgery News Supersite, December 23, 2010; The Beaver Dam Eye Study.)

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