Improving microvascular outcomes in patients with diabetes through management of hypertension

Janet B McGill
Postgraduate Medicine 2009, 121 (2): 89-101
Diabetes mellitus is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and current opinion holds that hyperglycemia directly damages smaller blood vessels, resulting in microvascular complications of nephropathy, retinopathy, and neuropathy. In a patient with diabetes, hypertension compounds and greatly increases the risk of microvascular complications, and thus the risk of end-stage kidney disease, vision loss, and nontraumatic limb amputations. Hypertension and hyperglycemia directly damage the microvasculature, leading to small vessel dysfunction that manifests as the clinical disease states of diabetic retinopathy and nephropathy. Early recognition and treatment of both hyperglycemia and hypertension may prevent vision loss and chronic kidney disease, the devastating outcomes of these microvascular complications. One of the pathogenic mechanisms for microvascular dysfunction is upregulation of the angiotensin II type 1 receptor, the most physiologically common receptor for the vasoconstrictor properties of angiotensin II. In patients with diabetic retinopathy and nephropathy, tight control of blood pressure (BP) (< 130/80 mm Hg) delays the progression of retinopathy and nephropathy in addition to reducing cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Aggressive treatment with 2 or more antihypertensive agents, selected from different drug classes, is often needed to reach the optimal BP target level. A PubMed search was conducted to identify randomized controlled trials that evaluated hypertension control and microvascular outcomes in patients with diabetes. Several clinical trials have yielded promising data with renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) inhibitors (the direct renin inhibitor aliskiren, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers). Attainment of BP control with RAAS inhibitors reduces the risk for CVD, nephropathy, and retinopathy. In addition, RAAS inhibitors have demonstrated renoprotective effectiveness independent of the BP reduction achieved. This review will examine the results of clinical trials in the context of BP control, diabetes, and the microvascular complications of retinopathy and nephropathy.

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