Visual impairments decline among adults with diabetes

November 30, 2011

The percentage of adults with diabetes who reported suffering from visual impairments declined significantly between 1997 and 2010, according to an analysis of data from the National Health Interview Survey.

Atlanta-The percentage of adults with diabetes who reported suffering from visual impairments declined significantly between 1997 and 2010, according to an analysis of data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

The findings were reported Nov. 18 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6045a2.htm).

From 1997 to 2010, the number of adults with self-reported diabetes and self-reported visual impairments increased from 2.7 million to 3.9 million. The crude percentage of adults with diabetes who reported visual impairments, however, decreased from 26.0% in 1997 to 18.6% in 2010, and the age-adjusted prevalence of visual impairments among adults with diabetes decreased from 23.7% in 1997 to 16.7% in 2010.

From 1997 to 2010, reported annual contact with an eye-care provider was approximately 63% among patients with diabetes who had visual impairments, and about 57% among patients with diabetes but no visual impairments.

The study’s authors speculate that the decline in visual impairment prevalence among those with diabetes might be attributable in part to better control of risk factors (for instance, blood glucose, blood pressure, and lipids), improved detection and treatment of eye problems, or other factors. An alternative explanation is that the large and sustained increase in new cases of diabetes since the 1990s might have led to a large number of people who have not had diabetes long enough to develop visual impairments.

“Continued efforts are needed to sustain and improve the declining trends in self-reported visual impairments among persons with diagnosed diabetes, and effective strategies are needed to increase awareness about eye health and improve rates of recommended eye examinations in this population,” the authors write.

NHIS is a survey of the civilian, non-institutionalized population of the United States. Adult respondents were asked whether a health professional had ever told them they had diabetes. Respondents were then asked, “Do you have any trouble seeing even with glasses or contacts?” Those who answered “yes” were considered to have visual impairments.

Respondents who answered “yes” to the question, “During the past 12 months, have you seen or talked to an optometrist, ophthalmologist, or eye doctor (someone who prescribes eyeglasses) about your own health?” were considered to have had contact with an eye-care provider in the past year.

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