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Glaucoma Could Really Be Diabetes of the Brain

glaucoma and diabetes of the brain

A fascinating new concept about a relationship between glaucoma and diabetes has been proposed by a scientific team in India, and it could radically change how each of these conditions is managed. In fact, the researchers have indicated that glaucoma could really be diabetes of the brain.

Glaucoma is an insidious eye disease in which a typically painless build-up of pressure inside the eye results in damage to the optic nerve, which is responsible for sending images to the brain. Undetected and untreated glaucoma can result in blindness over a period of several years.

Read about how to prevent glaucoma

What has caused these experts to state not only that “glaucoma may possibly be the diabetes of the brain” but also that “we propose glaucoma also to be a type of diabetes”? Their extensive investigations have shown some significant similarities between the two conditions.

We already know that people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma as are people without diabetes. Similarly, people who have the most common form of glaucoma (open-angle) are at greater risk of developing diabetes than are people without the eye disease.

In addition, a rare form of the eye disease, called neovascular glaucoma, is associated with other health issues, and diabetes is the most common one. But the experts in this new study have uncovered more similarities between glaucoma and diabetes, including genetic, molecular, and biochemical factors.

Read about treating glaucoma

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For example, insulin has a role in both glaucoma and diabetes, and both diseases share some similar molecular processes. The authors also suggested antidiabetes drugs could be helpful in treating glaucoma, another feature that indicates shared mechanisms.

You also may remember reading about research indicating that Alzheimer’s disease could be considered type 3 diabetes. A recent study by experts at Albany University, for example, reported on this relationship.

They noted that excess insulin can reach the brain and hinder the natural breakdown of the substances associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease (amyloid plaques). The authors also pointed out that about 70 percent of people who have type 2 diabetes eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease, which is greater than the percentage seen in the general population.

Read about risk factors for type 2 diabetes

According to the authors of the new study from India (All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Ambedkar Centre for Biomedical Research), they show that “Alzheimer’s disease is cerebral glaucoma and diabetes at the same time…[which] leads to our hypothesis that glaucoma is diabetes of the brain.”

These announcements may take some time to digest, but the implications for people with glaucoma, type 2 diabetes, or Alzheimer’s disease could be highly significant. These relationships truly deserve further investigation, and the findings may result in new ways to prevent, treat, and manage all of these diseases, which may end up being forms of the same basic condition.

Faiq MA et al. Glaucoma—diabetes of the brain: a radical hypothesis about its nature and pathogenesis. Medical Hypotheses 2014 March 3 online

Image: Flickr/Convergencia Democratica de Catalunya