Good and bad news about diabetes

There s been a big rise in diabetes cases, especially in the South and Appalachian states, a disheartening new study reports. It s not much consolation, but at least we can also report that there s a new treatment on the horizon for diabetic retinopathy, one of the most common causes of visual impairment among American adults, and can lead to blindness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the number of diagnosed diabetes cases doubled or more in 18 states between 1995 and 2010, with Oklahoma leading the way with a 226 percent rise over the 16-year period. In 2010, 18.8 million Americans had a diagnosed case of diabetes and another 7 million had the condition but had not yet been diagnosed, according to the study in CDC s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Meanwhile, a study has found that Ranibizumab (sold in the U.S. by Novartis under the trade name Lucentis) may slow the progression of the damage to the retina known as diabetic retinopathy and even reverse some of the impairment of patients vision. Michael Ip, M.D., of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and colleagues reported the results of a trial of some 500 patients, about half of whom received placebo, at a meeting of the American Academy of Ophthamology in Chicago.

The drug must be injected into patients eyes monthly, though, and it s not clear whether the improvement in vision which continued in the active treatment group over the three-year course of the study lasts once the treatment stops.