Semaglutide and empagliflozin have shown cardiovascular protection. In SUSTAIN-6, semaglutide was associated with an increased risk of diabetic retinopathy. We investigated whether changes in retinal oxygenation, retinal vascular autoregulation, and central retinal thickness are altered by semaglutide, empagliflozin or the combination.
This study was a prespecified, secondary outcome from a randomised, 32 weeks partly placebo-controlled, partly open-label, clinical trial on the effects of semaglutide and empagliflozin on arterial stiffness and kidney oxygenation. A total of 120 participants with type 2 diabetes, established or high risk of cardiovascular disease and age ≥50 years were randomised into four parallel groups (semaglutide, empagliflozin, the combination or tablet placebo, n = 30 for each group). We primarily hypothesized that semaglutide would increase venular oxygenation.
We found no changes in retinal arteriolar, venular or venular-arteriolar oxygenation nor in retinal vessel diameter regardless of treatment group. Semaglutide increased central retinal thickness compared to placebo with ~1 % (3.8 μm 95 % CI [0.9;6.7], p = 0.009) with no changes in the empagliflozin or combination group.
Neither semaglutide, empagliflozin nor the combination alters markers of retinal function. The effect of semaglutide on central retinal thickness was small, but the clinical significance is uncertain.

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