Diabetes can cause a number of serious side effects
including eye conditions.
Now researchers are finding ways to see the very early
signs of diabetic eye damage .
so they can treat it before the damage is done.
Martie Salt has more.
FOR YEARS, 63-YEAR-OLD BARBARA ALPAN RELIED ON HER
DAUGHTER LARA FOR RIDES, BUT NOT ANYMORE.
SHE WAS DIABETIC, IN HER THIRTIES, AND IT EVENTUALLY
TOOK A TOLL ON HER EYES.
If I was driving and somebody came up on the left,
I wouldn't have seen them.
RITH-wick RAJAGOPAL RAH-jah-go-pahl
IS AN EXPERT IN DIABETES-RELATED VISION LOSS.
Currently, diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed and treated
at the late stages of the disease.
FOR YEARS, DOCTORS HAVE BLAMED VISION LOSS ON BLOOD
VESSEL DAMAGE AROUND THE RETINA, BUT NEW RESEARCH
SHOWS EYE INJURY MAY BEGIN MUCH EARLIER IN NERVE CELLS.
DOCTOR RAJAGOPAL RAH-jah-go-pahl AND HIS COLLEAGUES
FED MICE A HIGH-FAT DIET, GIVING THEM DIABETES AND
THEN DIABETIC RETINOPATHY.
AT SIX MONTHS, THE MICE SHOWED SIGNS OF NERVE PROBLEMS.
We could detect subtle issues in vision prior to the
animals developing issues with retinal blood vessels.
RESEARCHERS DID NOT SEE ACTUAL BLOOD VESSEL DAMAGE
IN THE MICE UNTIL 12 MONTHS.
DOCTOR RAJAGOPAL RAH-jah-go-pahl SAYS THIS FINDING
COULD LEAD TO EARLIER DIAGNOSIS.
Eye tests for example that might be able to tell us
this person is at high risk of developing diabetic
retinopathy, while this other person might not be.
AND THAT COULD LEAD TO EARLY TREATMENTS.
DOCTORS SAY BARBARA ALPAN WAS AN EXCEPTION.
SURGERY RESTORED HER EYESIGHT DESPITE ADVANCED DISEASE.
It's been a huge impact on her well-being.
AND HER CONFIDENCE BEHIND THE WHEEL.
I'M MARTIE SALT, REPORTING.