In a nutshell
This study looked at whether traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can help treat vision loss in patients with diabetes. This study found that TCM may help improve eye function and blood glucose levels for patients with diabetes who have DR.
In diabetes mellitus, patients have high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Over time, high blood glucose levels can damage blood vessels. One area with essential blood vessels is the retina (cells at the back of the eye). Damage to small blood vessels in the retina can cause bleeding. This bleeding can lead to vision loss, known as diabetic retinopathy (DR).
Controlling blood glucose levels can help prevent DR. Insulin, anti-diabetes medications, and diet and exercise can help manage blood glucose levels. However, there are no specific treatments for DR. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) uses diet and herbs to reduce inflammation and treat DR. It is unclear whether TCM benefits patients with DR.
Methods & findings
This study looked at the results of 33 studies. These studies included 3430 patients with diabetes mellitus. Most patients had an early stage of DR. 1846 patients received TCM. 1584 patients received no treatment, a placebo (substance with no active effect), or standard treatment such as calcium dobesilate (Doxium).
13 studies measured how well patients could see details (visual acuity). Patients treated with TCM had better visual acuity than patients treated with conventional medicine. Compared to untreated patients, patients treated with TCM had similar visual acuity.
8 studies measured how many times patients had bleeding in the retina. Patients in the TCM group had significantly fewer episodes of bleeding compared to patients treated with conventional medicine (4.51 fewer episodes) or with placebo (4.35 fewer episodes).
5 studies measured the number of yellow flecks in the retina that can affect vision. These flecks are called retinal exudates. There was no difference in the number of flecks between patients treated with TCM versus standard treatment.
HbA1c levels are an average of blood glucose levels over three months. 7 studies found that patients treated with TCM had HbA1c levels drop by 0.22 versus standard treatment. Patients who received a placebo had HbA1c levels drop by 0.88.
The bottom line
This study found that TCM may help improve eye function and blood glucose levels for patients with diabetes who have DR. The authors suggest that more studies comparing TCM to other treatments are needed.
The fine print
This study was conducted in China, where TCM is more available. In most of the studies, both patients and doctors knew which treatment was given. This may limit the results. More studies are needed to evaluate the long-term effects of TCM on DR.
Original Title :
Traditional chinese medicine for diabetic retinopathy: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
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