Diabetes: sugar may not be to blame for development of cataracts

New research contradicts previous assumptions about the role of sugar in the formation of diabetic cataracts

The hands of an older person rest on the pages of a book that is open on their lap

Researchers have uncovered a new mechanism behind the development of cataracts in diabetic patients – contradicting previous assumptions about the role of sugar.

The study, which was published in Journal of Biomedical Science, highlighted the potential for damage to occur within the eye before the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

Researchers previously assumed that cataract formation was preceded by the development of high blood sugar in patients with diabetes.

However, in a mouse model of diabetes, the scientists found that close to half of the mice developed early signs of cataract formation before they had high blood sugar levels.

Instead, the researchers believe that cellular changes prompted by movement of immune cells within the lens warrants further investigation as a potential cause.

Study author, Dr Ali Hafezi-Moghadam, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, shared that more than 500 million people worldwide have diabetes.

Preventing the development of cataracts requires an understanding of the basic processes that underly their formation.

“Perhaps one day it will become possible to avoid performing these surgeries altogether,” he said.