Does Bariatric Surgery worsen Diabetic Retinopathy: Recent study claims so!


Bariatric surgery has been regarded as one of the most effective medical procedures for reducing body weight in obese and morbidly obese patients. According to the data from ASMBS (American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery), the number of bariatric surgeries performed in the US was 158,000, just eight years later, the number rose to 252,000 where Gastric Sleeve surgery is topping the list for years as the most preferred form of bariatric surgery.

However, a new study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology on January 08, 2021, found a serious issue connecting Bariatric Surgery and Diabetic Retinopathy (DR).

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic Retinopathy is a condition that arises from high blood sugar levels which can cause damage to the back of the retina. The damage occurs from blood vessel bleeding that develops on the retina. The bleeding affects the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, and If left untreated, this may lead to loss of vision.

Does Diabetic Retinopathy cause complete loss of vision?

The effects of Diabetic Retinopathy is gradual, it does not make you blind in just one day. Thankfully, the symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy are easy to spot. You will notice dark or empty areas in your vision or see dark spots or strings floating in your vision. If you notice such things with your vision, then a visit to the eye doctor may very well be in order.

I have diabetes, will I have Diabetic Retinopathy?

There is no need to panic as being diabetic doesn’t mean that you have Diabetic Retinopathy. However, people who are diabetic have a higher chance of getting Diabetic Retinopathy. So if you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, ease off the sugar to keep a safe balance.

What is the connection between bariatric Surgery and Diabetic Retinopathy?

Coming to our main topic, the study that was published a few days ago has an interesting finding to share.

Bariatric Surgery is a great way to shave off those extra pounds if you are morbidly obese. There are side effects to it and if you are to undergo such a procedure the doctors will explain everything in detail to you.

However, diabetic retinopathy complication is not on the list, and may soon be added.

Bariatric Surgery found to worsen Serious Diabetic Retinopathy

The research on this matter was conducted comprehensively. The researchers used databases from EMBASE, CENTRAL, and MEDLINE to compare how the state of DR and sight-threatening DR changes in people after bariatric surgery. The researchers used 14 studies comprising of 252,289 control and 110,300 surgical patients.

The study found out that people who underwent surgery had significantly less prevalence of DR and sight-threatening DR. However, early worsening of DR and progression to sight-threatening DR had occurred more often in those with more severe DR initially.

What does this mean for DR patients?

The fundings of the study make it very clear the chances of Bariatric surgery causing  DR and sight-threatening DR in patients in very low. Even after one year, the surgery resulted in significantly fewer patients with worsened DR.

However, patients who have DR prior to the surgery may experience aggravation in the condition post-surgery.

How to accommodate these findings in Bariatric Surgery Care

The findings make the case for the facilitation of more comprehensive care for patients who have a case of DR or sight-threatening DR.

As for the patient, if they know that they have DR, they must inform the doctor of their condition and ask for the best course of action.

How to reduce the risk of DR – diabetic retinopathy

Since DR is a result of high blood sugar, your first priority is to reduce the blood sugar level. Also, reduce the factors that would allow the blood sugar levels to spike up. For example, taking diabetic medications on time, and reducing or eliminating the intake of high sugar foods are a great start.

If diabetic retinopathy worsens, we now have technology that can help in treating it. Laser treatment and eye surgery are options to consider if the patient experiences loss of vision from Diabetic Retinopathy.

Alternatives to Bariatric Surgery

If you think that bariatric surgery is not for you, then there are other bariatric procedures that can help with weight loss. Many do not like the idea of undergoing surgery for weight-loss and this has led to the development of surgery-less procedures that can give almost or the same effect as that of surgery.

ESG – The best surgery less option for weight loss

Bariatric surgery and ESG have the same core idea – To make adjustments to the digestive system so that the body can only absorb and/or hold a small amount of food.

However, they differ like night and day when it comes to their approach. ESG or Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty does not require the doctor to make an incision on the patient’s body. In ESG, the volume of the stomach is reduced by the use of medical-grade sutures. The whole procedure is done through endoscopy, hence there is no need for any cuts or incisions.

The popularity of surgery less bariatric procedures is steadily increasing. Before procedures like ESG, there was no option other than surgery. However, now people have the option.


Now in 2021, people who are obese have more options than ever before when it comes to the weight loss route they want to take. If you want to know more about surgery-less procedures like ESG, then contact Be Better Bariatrics to know more. We provide multiple surgery-less weight loss procedures to help people tackle obesity and have them back to a healthy lifestyle.

The important takeaway from the study that we have reviewed today is that the patient needs to stay updated about the bariatric procedure that they choose. We are always ready to help you on the subject, let us know your queries.


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