Vision loss is increasing in the United States and so too is the prevalence of diabetes. The disease is cropping up in younger generations and now a new study is looking at the link between long term diabetes and vision.
Millions of Americans need glasses to help them see, but there is an increasing group of adults who experience vision loss that cannot be corrected by glasses. Jerry Fishman was diagnosed with diabetes and diabetic retinopathy and he is not alone."My retinas, both of them had swollen to such a degree that it was becoming almost impossible for me to see anything clearly," Fishman said.
His doctor, David Friedman from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said, " In working age Americans its diabetic eye disease that is a predominant cause of retinal disease." Dr. Friedman and co-authors of a new study examined data from people participating in the National Health and Nutrition examination survey or NHANES.
Researchers evaluated data on vision health from 1999 to 2002 and from 2005 to 2008. Those living below the poverty line had almost twice the rate of vision loss as those with incomes above the poverty level. Education and insurance were also risk factors for vision loss but those improved or stayed the same from one period to another. "The only major risk factor for vision loss that increased over time was diabetes lasting 10 or more years. The prevalence of diabetes is increasing and people are having it longer because they are having it at a younger age" Friedman said.
Researchers also found vision loss that cannot be corrected with glasses increased over the study time period by about 20 percent in the last six or seven years.
"When we looked at the younger population those 20 to 40 years of age we saw an increase of 40 percent," Friedman said. "If we continue at the pace that we're going to see a lot of working age Americans with vision loss related to diabetes" Friedman added.
As for Jerry Fishman after his diagnosis he changed his diet and lifestyle and is making great progress. "I've made my mind up that if it's going to get better and I'm not going to create havoc on my body I was going to have to be a good boy about it" Fishman said.
Researchers say continued monitoring of visual impairment and diabetes along with prevention and treatments are needed.
The study appears in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.