Indexed on: 20 Dec '18Published on: 20 Dec '18Published in: The Cochrane database of systematic reviews
Diabetic retinopathy is one of the major causes of blindness and the number of cases has risen in recent years. Herbal medicine has been used to treat diabetes and its complications including diabetic retinopathy for thousands of years around the world. However, common practice is not always evidence-based. Evidence is needed to help people with diabetic retinopathy or doctors to make judicious judgements about using herbal medicine as treatment. To evaluate the effectiveness and harm of single herbal medicine for diabetic retinopathy. We searched CENTRAL, which contains the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Trials Register, MEDLINE, Embase, OpenGrey, the ISRCTN registry, ClinicalTrials.gov and the ICTRP. The date of the search was 12 June 2018. We also searched the following Chinese databases in June 2013: Chinese BioMedical Literature Database (CBM), Traditional Chinese Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (TCMLARS), Wanfang China Dissertation Database (CDDB), Wanfang China Conference Paper Database (CCPD) and the Index to Chinese Periodical Literature. We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs that investigated the effects of any single herb (or extracts from a single herb) as a treatment for people with diabetic retinopathy. We considered the following comparators: placebo, no treatment, non-herbal (conventional) medicine or surgical treatment. Two review authors independently extracted data and assessed the risk of bias in the studies. Our prespecified outcomes were: progression of diabetic retinopathy, visual acuity, microaneurysms and haemorrhages in the retina, blood glycated haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) (%) and adverse effects. We performed meta-analyses using risk ratios (RR) for dichotomous outcomes and mean differences (MD) for continuous outcomes, with 95% confidence intervals (CI). We assessed the certainty of the evidence using GRADE. We included 10 studies involving 754 participants, of which nine were conducted in China and one in Poland. In all studies, participants in both groups received conventional treatment for diabetic retinopathy which included maintaining blood glucose and lipids using medicines and keeping a stable diabetic diet. In three studies, the comparator group also received an additional potentially active comparator in the form of a vasoprotective drug. The single herbs or extracts included Ruscus extract tablet, Sanqi Tongshu capsule, tetramethylpyrazine injection, Xueshuantong injection, Puerarin injection and Xuesaitong injection. The Sanqi Tongshu capsule, Xueshuantong injection and Xuesaitong injection were all made from the extract of Radix Notoginseng (San qi) and the main ingredient was sanchinoside. The risk of bias was high in all included studies mainly due to lack of masking (blinding). None of the studies reported the primary outcome of this review, progression of retinopathy.Combined analysis of herbal interventions suggested that people who took these herbs in combination with conventional treatment may have been more likely to gain 2 or more lines of visual acuity compared to people who did not take these herbs when compared to conventional intervention alone at the end of treatment (RR 1.26, 95% CI 1.08 to 1.48; 5 trials, 541 participants; low-certainty evidence). Subgroup analyses based on the different single herbs found no evidence for different effects of different herbs, but the power of this analysis was low. One study reported Sanqi Tongshu capsule might be associated with a greater reduction in microaneurysms and haemorrhages in the retina (very low-certainty evidence). The pooled analysis of two studies on tetramethylpyrazine or Xueshuantong injection showed such herbs may have had little effect on lowering HbA1c (MD 0.00, 95% CI -0.58 to 0.58; 215 participants; low-certainty evidence).There was very low-certainty evidence on adverse events. Two studies reported minor adverse events such as uncomfortable stomach, urticaria, dizziness and headache. There was no report of observation on adverse events in the other studies. No conclusions could be drawn about the effect of any single herb or herbal extract on diabetic retinopathy from the current available evidence. It was difficult to exclude the placebo effect as a possible explanation for observed differences due to the lack of placebo control in the included studies. Further adequately designed trials are needed to establish the evidence.