Diabetic retinopathy affects nearly 30% of U.S. diabetic adults, study shows

WASHINGTON The prevalence of diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease caused by diabetes, has increased among diabetic adults in the United States, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Examining a sample of about 1,006 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey, ages 40 years and older, which was conducted from 2005 to 2008. Xinzhi Zhang of the Centers of the Disease Control and Prevention and colleagues found that about 28.5% of those surveyed had diabetic retinopathy and vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy.

Of that 28.5%, the study revealed, more men likely would have diabetic retinopathy than women (31.6% vs. 25.7%). What's more, African-Americans had a higher prevalence of diabetic retinopathy, compared with white adults (38.8% vs. 26.4% of those surveyed).

The rates were about 40% and two and a half times higher, respectively, than estimates dating back to an earlier NHANES study from 1988 to 1994.

"Improved diabetes care, such as effective management of blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and serum lipid levels, is likely to reduce the incidence of diabetic retinopathy. Conversely, it might also lead to increased survival resulting in higher prevalence of diabetic retinopathy," the authors wrote.

"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," the authors concluded.

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