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Women with retinopathy—a diabetes complication that can lead to blindness—should have their eyes checked regularly during pregnancy, say researchers in the United Kingdom.

Researchers from King’s College Hospital in London who studied a pregnant woman with diabetes throughout the course of her pregnancy found that retinopathy worsened during her last trimester, despite a period of stable control of her blood-glucose levels. Results of the case study were published in the August 18, 2001, issue of Diabetic Medicine.

The study reports that the subject’s eyes appeared normal during the early part of her pregnancy. In the third trimester, however, one eye hemorrhaged, and she had to undergo three corrective laser treatments while she was pregnant and a vitrectomy after she had the baby. Researchers note that her retinopathy worsened in spite of the fact that glycemic control was maintained during the pregnancy.

More generally, they write, pregnant women who have diabetes experience an increase in background retinopathy during the first trimester, probably because they achieve tight control very rapidly during pregnancy.

This case study emphasizes the importance of having your eyes checked, regardless of sudden improvements in glycemic control, researchers conclude.

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