Prevent Blindness Predicts Diabetic Eye Disease to Rise

More than 8 million Americans have diabetic retinopathy and total cases of the disease are projected to increase by 35 percent by 2032 and by 63 percent by 2050.

Prevent Blindness released results from a study that says more than 8 million Americans have diabetic retinopathy and total cases of the disease are projected to increase by 35 percent by 2032 and by 63 percent by 2050. Diabetic retinopathy patients have an average age of 66 years, the youngest of any of the major eye diseases., and people with diabetes are 25 times more likely to become blind than those without it, according to the National Eye Institute.

Prevent Blindness has declared November to be Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month as it works to educate the public on diabetes prevention strategies, potential risk factors, treatment options, and Medicare coverage policies. According to the organization, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults and people with diabetes are 40 percent more likely to develop glaucoma and 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts than those without diabetes.

"Prevent Blindness urges everyone with diabetes to get an annual dilated eye exam," said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness. "Your eye doctor can help monitor your vision and advise you of the necessary steps to take today to help lessen the impact that the disease may have on your sight."

Anyone with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic eye disease; factors that can put some at higher risk for vision loss include:

  • Age: Both younger and older people with diabetes are at risk for diabetic retinopathy, and some of the most severe cases are in people who were diagnosed with diabetes at a very young age after they have had the disease for many years.
  • Duration of the disease: The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the chance of diabetic retinopathy.
  • Blood sugar control: Poor blood sugar control is one of the main causes of diabetic retinopathy.
  • Ethnicity: The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports some groups, including African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, are more likely to have diabetes.
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure increases the risk of eye disease, heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy seems to increase a woman's risk of developing, or accelerating, diabetic retinopathy.
  • Kidney disease: It is a major complication of diabetes. The earlier kidney disease is diagnosed the better.

For more information on diabetic eye disease, visit preventblindness.org/diabetes.

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