JAMA logo Complications of diabetes mellitus apparently cause damage to the retina, leading to a diabetes-related blindness termed as diabetic retinopathy. A recent study declares almost 30 percent of U.S. adults with diabetes above the age of 40 to have this form of blindness with about 4 percent of this population having vision-threatening retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is seemingly held responsible for legal blindness in adults aged 20 to 74 years in the United States.

Investigators aimed to evaluate the recent prevalence and risk factors of diabetic retinopathy in the U.S. population aged 40 years and older. The investigation comprised 1,006 individuals and an analysis of data. The data was provided from a nationally representative sample of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2008. Scientists defined diabetes as a self-report to a previous diagnosis of the disease. This explanation was presented after eliminating gestational diabetes mellitus or glycated hemoglobin A1c of 6.5 percent or greater.

It was explained that glycated hemoglobin A1c is a type of hemoglobin primarily employed to detect the average plasma glucose concentration. Photographs of each eye were taken in order to evaluate and categorize diabetic retinopathy. Xinzhi Zhang M.D., Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues weighted the prevalence estimates to display the civilian, non-institutionalized U.S. population aged 40 years and above.

Investigators highlight, “These estimates provide policy makers updated information for use in planning eye care services and rehabilitation. With the aging of the population and the increasing proportion of the population with diverse racial/ethnic heritage, the number of cases of diabetic retinopathy and vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy will likely increase. Furthermore, the need for eye care and for culturally appropriate interventions that can reduce disparity and improve access to eye care among diverse populations is also likely to increase.”

In the course of the study, scientists discovered the estimated prevalence of diabetic retinopathy and vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy of 28.5 percent in diabetics aged 40 and 4.4 percent in patients above the age of 40. This estimation appeared from 2005-2008. It was detected that around 31.6 percent men and 25.7 percent women who were diabetics had diabetic retinopathy. The diabetes-related blindness was also reported in 26.4 percent of non-Hispanic white individuals, 38.8 percent of non-Hispanic black individuals, and 34.0 percent of Mexican American individuals with diabetes.

Authors share, “Investigating the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy is important because it is a key indicator of systemic diabetic microvascular complications, and as such, a sentinel indicator of the impact of diabetes.”

Vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy was possibly found in 3.2 percent of non-Hispanic white individuals. The ailment was also registered in 9.3 percent of non-Hispanic black individuals and 7.3 percent of Mexican American individuals. Experts mentioned all these individuals had diabetes. On completion of further investigations, experts concluded that independent risk factor for diabetic retinopathy was male sex at 38.1 percent than 27.1 percent. Other risk factors may include higher hemoglobin A1c level, longer diabetes duration, use of insulin which forms 47.4 percent in comparison to 26.7 percent and higher systolic blood pressure.

The study was published in the August 11 issue of JAMA.