Exploring the effects of a common weight loss drug on vision

US scientists report that semaglutide does not appear to make diabetic eye disease worse in the majority of patients

A white and grey set of bathroom scales rest on a wooden floor
Pixabay/Joachim Schnürle

US scientists have reported that most patients with diabetes do not experience deteriorating vision after taking the common weight loss drug, semaglutide.

The findings were presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting (3–6 November, San Francisco).

Researchers examined data from 48,000 adults with type 2 diabetes treated with injectable semaglutide.

They found that after two years of treatment, 2.2% of participants with no or minimal diabetic retinopathy experienced a deterioration in their condition.

In patients with mild or moderate nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy, 3.5% of patients had worsening symptoms after two years.

In contrast, over the period close to 60% of patients with severe nonproliferative or proliferative diabetic retinopathy saw an improvement in their condition.

Dr Zeeshan Haq, of Retina Consultants of Minnesota, highlighted that the results are promising for people with diabetes who are considering semaglutide as a weight loss aid.

However, he added that further investigation is needed – particularly now that the US Food and Drug Administration has approved semaglutide as a weight loss aid.

“Ultimately, diabetic patients who are considering semaglutide should consult with their primary and eye care providers regarding their individual situation,” Haq said.

A planned study, named Focus, will evaluate the long-term effects of semaglutide in addition to diabetes medication on diabetic retinopathy – with results expected in 2027.