THURSDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- People with diabetes are
reporting fewer vision problems, a new U.S. government report
Since 1997 the percentage of diabetics reporting vision problems
dropped from 26 percent to 18.6 percent, researchers from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.
"Our findings are consistent with other findings," said lead researcher Nilka Burrows, a CDC epidemiologist. "There is better blood glucose control, blood pressure control and cholesterol control in people with diabetes."
So, part of the reason for this finding is better management of
diabetes, Burrows said, adding that aging had little or no effect
on the trend for fewer vision problems.
Dr. Minisha Sood, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in
New York City, said that this decline in reported vision problems
among diabetics "is encouraging, but there may be a false sense of
Sood noted that when newly diagnosed diabetics have been living
with their condition for five or 10 years, "the percentage of
patients with vision impairment might increase dramatically."
One of the limitations of the study is that the data is
self-reported so it isn't really clear how serious the vision
problems are, Burrows noted.
The report was published in the Nov. 18 issue of
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a CDC publication.
Diabetes can lead to vision problems, and even to blindness. It
is the leading cause of blindness among adults in the United
States, Burrows said.
For the study, Burrows' team used data from the 1997-2010
National Health Interview Survey. In the survey, people with
diabetes were asked if they had any trouble seeing and whether they
had seen an eye doctor in the past year.
Between 1997 and 2010, the number of diabetics with vision
problems increased from 2.7 million to 3.9 million, the researchers
But the percentage of those reporting vision problems actually
decreased, Burrows said.
However, although the percentage of diabetics reporting trouble
seeing declined over the period, the percentage of diabetics who
had a yearly eye exam remained constant at 63 percent, the
People with diabetes should see their doctor to find vision
problems early and get early treatment, Burrows said.
Dr. Mark Fromer, an ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in
New York City, said that "the greatest problems diabetics have is
swelling in the retina."
The condition, called diabetic macular edema, can cause
distorted vision, he said. "That occurs because the blood vessels
in the eye start to leak fluid into the retina," he explained.
If diabetes isn't controlled, another condition called diabetic
retinopathy can develop, which can cause blood vessels in the eye
to bleed into the eye, Fromer said.
The best way for diabetics to reduce the risk of vision problems
is to control their blood sugar, Fromer said.
In addition, diabetics who have no vision problems should see an
eye doctor once a year, he said.
"If there is any diabetic retinopathy, the patient should probably come in about every six months," Fromer said.
More serious retina swelling is treated with laser or the cancer
drug Avastin, he said.
Fromer noted that in his practice he is seeing more diabetic
patients before they develop vision problems. "General
practitioners are recognizing that diabetics need to be seen
early," he said.
"Not only that, we have different diagnostic tests to diagnose the problem earlier," Fromer said. "If patients are getting treatment earlier, and with better treatment options, the conditions will improve."
For more on diabetes, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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