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Vision Problems Decreasing in People With Diabetes

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Updated: 3/19 2:35 pm

Nov. 17, 2011 -- Vision problems and vision loss are known complications of diabetes, but things seem to be getting better. The percentage of adults with diabetes who say they have vision problems has dropped from 24% in 1997 to 17% in 2010.

That’s the good news.

The not-so-good news is that only 63% of people with diabetes and vision problems get the recommended annual eye exam.

"Most vision loss caused by diabetes could be avoided by managing the disease well --good control of blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol -- and by getting a dilated eye examination every year to find problems early and treat them in time to avoid serious vision damage," study researcher Nilka Rios Burrows, MPH, an epidemiologist at the CDC's diabetes division, says in an email.

"Continued efforts are needed to sustain and improve the declining trends in self-reported vision impairment and to increase rates of recommended eye examinations in the population with diabetes," says a report in the Nov. 18 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Yearly Eye Exams Needed for People With Diabetes

"Things are getting better," says John Buse, MD. He is the chief of the division of endocrinology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. "We are diagnosing diabetes earlier, treating high blood sugar more effectively, addressing other risk factors for eye disease more consistently, and intervening earlier when problems arise," he says in an email. 

Buse says that people can’t afford to become complacent about these risks. "With appropriate prevention and treatment measures, I am convinced that people with diabetes should be able to live out normal life expectancies with little or no increased risk of disabilities," Buse says. He agrees with Burrows that diabetes patients should "control blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol and get a dilated eye exam every year by an eye care professional."

Joel Zonszein, MD, says don’t wait until you have eye problems to go get an exam. "See the eye doctor and continue to see the eye doctor yearly even if you see perfectly well to make sure that there aren’t any changes." He is the director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y.

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