The number of people in the US with impaired vision is increasing in line with growing diabetes rates, a new study has revealed.
The research, published earlier this week in the Journal of the American Medical Associatio, found that rates of so-called non-refractive vision impairment likely related, but not prove, to diabetes have risen by 20 per cent since 2002.
Non-refractive vision impairment is the term for eye conditions, including glaucoma, retinopathy and cataracts, which typically require laser surgery for treatment. These conditions are more common in people with longstanding diabetes, and if left untreated, can lead to permanent blindness.
For their study, researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of analysed data on 19,951 adult subjects from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
They found that prevalence of non-refractive vision impairment increased from 1.4 per cent in 1999-2002 to 1.7 per cent in 2005-2008 (up 20 per cent). During that period, the number of subjects who’d had diabetes for ten years or more rose by 22 per cent, from 2.8 per cent to 3.6 per cent.
In fact, long-term diabetes was the only risk factor – the others being older age, poverty and low education – that increased in prevalence between the two time periods.
Dr David Friedma, one of the authors of the study, warned that the “dramatic findings” are just the “tip of the iceberg of what’s coming ahead” for the US population.
He said screening diabetic patients for vision problems, as currently done in England, is key to preventing eye complications from developing or worsening, but added that only half of diabetics in America have regular eye checks.
“Hopefully what this article will do is raise awareness and in part increase the screening rate,” he said.

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