University researchers led by Michael Mauer, M.D., found that antihypertensive medications commonly used to treat high blood pressure also slow the progression of eye damage in people with type 1 diabetes. They found that the antihypertensives losartan and enalapril slowed the progression of eye damage by more than 65 percent in type 1 diabetics involved in the study.
Eye damage and blindness are common complications of diabetes, which also accounts for nearly half of all cases of chronic kidney failure in the United States each year.
In previous studies of people with type 1 diabetes, antihypertensive drugs were also found to slow the loss of function in the kidneys but not prevent kidney failure. Mauer’s team embarked on the current study to find out whether the drugs could delay kidney injuries in diabetics who had normal blood pressure and hadn’t shown signs of kidney disease.
The team evaluated three participant groups throughout five years. Two of the groups received either losartan or enalapril, and the third group received a placebo.
The results, published in the July issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that the antihypertensive drugs did not delay or prevent kidney injury, but they did impart the unexpected benefit.
“The secondary results of this study showed that people taking these anti- hypertensive medications experienced a substantially positive effect in slowing diabetic eye injury,” says Mauer, who believes the treatment may also hold potential for patients with type 2 diabetes.