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The vast majority of diabetes patients who develop diabetic retinopathy (eye involvement) have no symptoms until the very late stages (by which time it may be too late for effective treatment). Since the rate of progression may be rapid, therapy can be beneficial for both symptom amelioration as well as reduction in the rate of disease progression. It is important to screen patients with diabetes for the development of retinal disease. The eyes carry important early clues to heart disease, signaling damage to tiny blood vessels long before symptoms start to show elsewhere. Diabetic people with retinopathy are more likely to die of heart disease over the next 12 years than those without it. As per a study from the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne in Australia and the National University of Singapore, people with retinopathy have nearly twice the odds of dying of heart disease compared to people without it.
People with these changes in the eyes may be getting a first warning that damage has started in their arteries, and that work is needed to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Patients with retinopathy have a greater risk of incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) events, including heart attack, stroke, revascularization, and CVD death, compared with those without retinopathy.