While common diabetes medication can help lower blood sugar levels, it may also be able to protect against blindness, according to a new report.
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Researchers from health institutions in Taiwan conducted a study, recently presented at an American Academy of Ophthalmology conference, to determine the relationship between metformin, a common diabetes medication, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease that can cause vision loss.
To do so, they used the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database to examine more than 62,000 patients with type 2 diabetes. About 45,000 of them took metformin, while about 22,000 did not. The analysts then followed the groups for 13 years.
After analyzing the results, they found that individuals on metformin had a significantly lower risk of developing AMD. In fact, half as many patients in the metformin group had the eye condition compared to the control group.
"Our study is the first to reveal the protective effect of metformin on the development of AMD," lead investigator Yu-Yen Chen said in a statement. "While more study is required to determine just how metformin protects against the development of AMD, this is an exciting development for patients at risk."
The scientists noted AMD is the one of the leading causes of blindness in Americans over age 50, and it affects about 2.1 million people worldwide. It occurs when part of the retina called the macula is damaged. While doctors do not yet fully understand how it develops, they believe smoking, diet and systemic diseases like heart disease can be factors.
The researchers now hope to continue their evaluations to better understand how metformin can be used to ward off the eye illness.