These Medicines Would possibly Make Diabetic Retinopathy Worse

Medical evaluate by Elizabeth Gomez MSN, FNP-BC

Diabetic retinopathy is a typical complication of diabetes that impacts the blood vessels within the retina, the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the attention. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy could cause extreme imaginative and prescient loss and even full blindness.

The excellent news is that diabetic retinopathy (DR) could be identified lengthy earlier than it really begins to influence your imaginative and prescient. The situation could be very treatable, and probably even reversible, particularly when caught early.

Medical doctors have a great understanding of what causes DR: excessive blood sugar, hypertension, and, to a lesser extent, excessive ldl cholesterol. Diabetic retinopathy could be very delicate to metabolic well being, and lots of the medicines that individuals with diabetes generally take can have an effect on its development and growth — for higher or for worse.

This text will evaluate the medication that we all know (or suspect) would possibly worsen diabetic retinopathy.


A fast phrase of warning: This text shouldn’t be taken as medical recommendation, and no affected person is certified to determine for themselves whether or not to keep away from any drug listed right here. Many of those medicines are necessary for the well being of tens of millions of adults, and their advantages might simply outweigh no matter impact they may have on DR.

Should you’re involved that you could be be taking a medicine that would make your diabetic retinopathy worse, please discuss to your physician. Solely a medical skilled is certified to evaluate the distinctive totality of your well being situations to suggest treatment changes.

The Two Diabetes Medicine That (Would possibly) Make DR Worse

Most diabetes medication have useful results for diabetic retinopathy, slowing its development and probably even serving to to reverse the harm. Taking your glucose-lowering medicines as prescribed by your physician is totally top-of-the-line methods to guard your self from DR.

There are, nonetheless, one and probably two exceptions to that rule, as described by a current survey of the subject within the medical journal Eye.

Thiazolidinediones (TZDs)

TZDs have been known as “the forgotten diabetes treatment.” These capsules straight enhance insulin resistance, a root reason behind kind 2 diabetes, however have been deemphasized by authorities as a consequence of issues over dangerous negative effects, together with heart problems.

Though these medication are more and more out of style, they’re nonetheless generally prescribed. As of 2019, about 8 p.c of individuals with kind 2 diabetes used a TZD.

TZDs carry a identified threat of diabetic macular edema (DME), an particularly damaging type of diabetic retinopathy that impacts our keenest imaginative and prescient within the middle of our eyesight. TZDs could cause fluid retention, which seems to exacerbate the swelling of blood vessels that characterizes DME. It solely occurs in a small variety of circumstances — fewer than 3 p.c of those who use the drug.

There at the moment are two sorts of TZDs in the marketplace:

  • Rosiglitazone (Avandia)
  • Pioglitazone (Actos)

Fortunately, cessation is related to speedy eye enchancment.


There’s some proof that semaglutide (Ozempic), a GLP-1RA, might improve the incidence of diabetic retinopathy. One in every of a number of pivotal research of semaglutide discovered an elevated threat of DR, and the FDA has reported {that a} considerably larger share of Ozempic customers have DR compared with customers of comparable medication like dulaglutide (Trulicity) and liraglutide (Victoza). The connection is disputed, nonetheless, as one other massive examine of semaglutide discovered no such threat.

Even when the affiliation is actual, it’s very attainable that your personal physician would conclude that semaglutide is well worth the threat. Ozempic is a very efficient drug for individuals with diabetes, usually conferring each speedy glycemic enhancements and weight reduction.

It appears attainable that Ozempic’s effectiveness, in reality, explains its unfavorable impact on the eyes. Opposite to all expectations, speedy enchancment in glucose management can really worsen diabetic retinopathy. That is known as “early worsening,” as a result of the eyes will worsen earlier than the foremost long-term advantages of higher blood sugar management change into evident.

Specialists don’t consider that that is essentially a motive to keep away from Ozempic. A current dialogue of the difficulty by consultants from the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommended that “early worsening” from Ozempic is each “short-term and manageable,” though it does name for elevated scrutiny from eye medical doctors.

Different Medicine With Adverse Metabolic Results

Medicine That Enhance Blood Sugar

Some medicines are identified to trigger blood sugar spikes:

  • Steroids, together with hydrocortisone and prednisone capsules or injections, can have a dramatic impact on blood sugar. (Steroid lotions and inhalers might not have the identical impact).
  • Hormonal contraception, together with the capsule, the shot, the patch, and the hormonal IUD
  • Beta-blockers, that are used to deal with hypertension, irregular heartbeat, and nervousness
  • Anti-psychotic medication, that are used to deal with schizophrenia and different psychological diseases

Should you take any of the above medication, it is perhaps smart to ensure your foremost diabetes healthcare supplier is conscious of it. They might or might not counsel an adjustment.

  • Statins are additionally related to rising blood sugar ranges — however even taking that issue under consideration, consultants nonetheless suggest statins for many adults with diabetes as a result of they cut back the danger of heart problems.

Lastly, in case you have superior diabetic retinopathy that requires therapy, you might be given steroid injections. These medication can have a robust anti-inflammatory impact inside the eyeball that straight improves DR signs, even when they exert a unfavorable impact on insulin sensitivity.

Medicine That Enhance Blood Stress

Hypertension (hypertension) is the opposite large issue that speeds the event and development of diabetic retinopathy. Accordingly, medicines which can be identified to lift your blood strain could be thought of threat components for DR.

An incomplete checklist of some widespread medication that may improve blood strain consists of:

  • Ache relievers, together with acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs), reminiscent of ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve)
  • Antidepressants, together with fluoxetine (Prozac), monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and tricyclic antidepressants
  • Decongestants, together with pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Contac) and phenylephrine (Sudafed PE)
  • Hormonal contraception, together with the capsule, the shot, the patch, and the hormonal IUD
  • Stimulants, reminiscent of methylphenidate (Ritalin)

Some dietary supplements, together with caffeine and ginseng, can have an analogous impact. The Mayo Clinic has a full article on the subject.

Medicine That Enhance (Unhealthy) Ldl cholesterol

Specialists are very assured that top blood sugar and hypertension each result in diabetic retinopathy. The proof linking excessive ldl cholesterol with DR isn’t fairly as robust, though we do know that some cholesterol-lowering medication (particularly fibrates) considerably cut back the incidence of DR.

These are a number of the commonest medication which can be believed to raise “dangerous” ldl cholesterol (LDL and/or triglycerides), which can or will not be threat components for DR:

  • Steroids
  • Hormonal contraception, together with the capsule, the shot, the patch, and the IUD
  • Retinoids (used to deal with pimples)
  • Beta-blockers, that are used to deal with hypertension, irregular heartbeat, and nervousness
  • Diuretics

Medicine That Enhance Weight

It ought to be no shock that weight acquire, which is so extremely associated to the event and development of kind 2 diabetes, is related to an elevated threat of diabetic retinopathy. A 2021 examine in Korea discovered that sufferers with current diagnoses of kind 2 diabetes that misplaced 10 p.c of their physique weight reduce their threat of DR in half, whereas those who had 10 p.c weight acquire tripled their threat.

It’s due to this fact in all probability truthful to contemplate any medication that trigger weight acquire as potential threat components for DR.

A few of the commonest medication related to weight acquire embody:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants, together with amitriptyline (Elavil), doxepin (Silenor), and nortriptyline (Pamelor)
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), one other kind of antidepressant, together with escitalopram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Anti-psychotics, significantly olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • Anti-seizure medicines, together with gabapentin (Gralise), pregabalin (Lyrica), and vigabatrin (Sabril).
  • Steroids
  • Beta-blockers
  • Antihistamines

The diabetes medicines insulin and sulfonylureas are additionally related to weight acquire, which is why diabetes authorities have just lately begun to favor different choices for glucose management.


Diabetic retinopathy is basically attributable to poor metabolic well being: excessive blood sugar, hypertension, and probably excessive ldl cholesterol. Many prescription medicines have undesirable metabolic negative effects and may due to this fact be thought of potential contributors to DR.

Moreover, two sorts of diabetes medication specifically are related to worsening diabetic retinopathy: the household of thiazolidinediones (TZDs), which incorporates rosiglitazone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (Actos), and semaglutide (Ozempic). Your ophthalmologist ought to be conscious that you’re taking one in every of these medication, however is not going to essentially advise a change, even if you’re at excessive threat of imaginative and prescient loss from DR.

Most of the medication mentioned on this article are very important to the well being of tens of millions; due to this fact, it’s not possible to say whether or not or not readers ought to keep away from them. As all the time, the guiding hand of a physician that understands your distinctive well being standing is vital. It’s generally as much as you to make it possible for your numerous specialists are all on the identical web page. We encourage you to make sure that your foremost diabetes care supplier and ophthalmologist are conscious of each medication you are taking.

This text has focused on the results that numerous medicines have on diabetic retinopathy. Drugs, in fact, is just one issue of many — eating regimen, train, glycemic management, and plenty of different choices play an immense function within the growth and development of diabetes issues.

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