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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 18:42 EDT

Diabetes-Related Eye Diseases Expected to Soar

December 25, 2008

The number of Americans with major eye diseases is expected to drastically increase over the next several decades as more Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, according to a new study.

“Vision loss related to eye disease among people with diabetes is an important disability that threatens independence and can lead to depression, reduced mobility and reduced quality of life,” the study’s authors wrote.

Diabetic retinopathy — damage to the small blood vessels in the retina — is the leading cause of blindness among American adults.  In 2004, for example, more than $500 million was spent on direct medical costs for diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetics are also more likely to suffer from eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma than the general population.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used published data from the 2004 National Health Interview Survey and the U.S. Census Bureau to estimate the number, age, sex and race/ethnicity of Americans with diabetes that will suffer from the following eye conditions in 2050: diabetic retinopathy, vision threatening diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts.

They estimated that from 2005 to 2050, diabetic retinopathy cases will increase from 5.5 million to 16 million and vision threatening diabetic retinopathy cases will rise from 1.2 million to 3.4 million. Also, cataract cases among whites and blacks age 40 and older with diabetes will likely rise 235 percent; cataract cases among people with diabetes who are over 75 will increase 637 percent for black women and 677 percent for black men, the researchers said. The number of glaucoma cases among Hispanics who are 65 and older with diabetes is expected to increase 12-fold.

“Efforts to prevent diabetes and to optimally manage diabetes and its complications are needed,” the study’s authors said.

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