Reducing the risk of blindness caused by diabetes may be as simple as taking an aspirin every day, a study suggests.
Researchers looking into retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness in the United States and a common complication of diabetes, say the condition appears to be caused in part by hundreds of microscopic blood clots that form in the eye.
Writing in this month's issue of the journal Diabetes, they said that aspirin, if taken early enough, might prevent the disease.
The report was prepared by Dr. Mara Lorenzi and colleagues at the Schepens Eye Research Institute at Harvard.
Aspirin is already commonly recommended by doctors for patients at risk of cardiovascular disease because it can help prevent the clots that can lead to strokes
and heart attacks. The American Diabetes Association counsels diabetics to take it for that reason.
But with new research showing evidence that blood clots may also explain the blindness common among diabetics — as many as 24,000 cases a year, the researchers estimate — aspirin may have a new role to play.
The researchers said they had found four times as many blood clots in the eyes of diabetics as in people without the disease. As the number of clots increases, the researchers said, the clots block blood flow to the retina, setting into motion a series of changes in the eye that lead to the blindness.
For aspirin therapy to be effective, they said, it must begin in the early stages of the disease.