People with type 2 diabetes who undergo bariatric surgery might be less likely to develop diabetic retinopathy than those treated without surgery, research suggests.
Bariatric (weight loss) surgery has shown in recent years to be effective in reversing type 2 diabetes. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that bariatric surgery should be considered in new-onset type 2 diabetes patients with a BMI of 30-34.9.
While this new study, conducted by the University of Mila, Italy found surgery led to reduced incidence of retinopathy, the researchers insist it is unclear whether weight loss surgery is associated with a regression of diabetic retinopathy.
“With bariatric surgery, a new concept arose, that is [the] remission/resolution of type 2 diabetes,” said study author Antonio E. Pontiroli, MD. “Less studied is the possible role in the prevention of retinopathy; uncontrolled studies on consecutive patients undergoing bariatric surgery yielded conflicting results, suggesting that retinopathy could improve, deteriorate or be stable after bariatric surgery.”
Data was analysed in seven studies to assess diabetic retinopathy scores in people with type 2 diabetes who were set to undergo bariatric surgery compared to those receiving standard care.
Fewer cases of retinopathy were identified among the bariatric surgery group in all but one study, with no between-treatment differences noted that could explain changes in retinopathy score.
“Available data coming from controlled studies indicate that bariatric surgery prevents new incident cases of retinopathy, but available studies are not sufficient to support progression or regression of retinopathy,” said the researchers.
“Because of the multiple limitations of these studies included in this meta-analysis, we need further studies to draw firm conclusions on the effect of bariatric surgery on diabetic retinopathy.”
The findings appear online in the journal Obesity Reviews.

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