Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of vision loss worldwide, according to a new report.
The report, published in Diabetes Care, was conducted by a global consortium led by researchers at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, and Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) College of Optometry in Fort Lauderdale/Davie, Florida.
This analysis included studies from 1990 and 2010, which found that one in every 39 people in 2010 was blind because of diabetic retinopathy. This increased 27 per cent from 1990.
Additionally, 191 million people with visual impairment had so due to retinopathy in 2010 – an increase of 64 per cent.
“With the alarming prevalence of vision loss due to diabetes rising more than two-thirds in the last 20 years, the precipitous global epidemic of diabetes must be addressed,” said lead investigator Dr Rupert R.A. Bourne, FRCOphth, Anglia Ruskin University.
The regions of the world with the highest number of people experiencing visual impairment because of retinopathy were South Asia, Middle East and North Africa and West Sub-Saharan Africa.
The authors will use estimates from this report as part of the Global Vision Database, which aims to assess changes over time in the causes and prevalence of vision loss.
They have recommended a number of strategies in regions most affected by diabetic retinopathy, including improved control of risk factors such as glucose levels among people with diabetes and increased health education and awareness of the risk of visual loss from retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy develops following elevated blood sugar levels over a long period of time. At its most advanced stage, new abnormal blood vessels grow which damage the retina.
“Unfortunately diabetic retinopathy usually does not have any symptoms in the early stages,” added co-author Janet Leasher, O.D., M.P.H., NSU’s College of Optometry.
“People diagnosed with diabetes should have a dilated eye health exam at least every year and be advised by their eye care practitioner for their personal situation. Patients should work closely with their health care provider to determine the best methods to control their blood sugar levels.”

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