Diabetic Vision Problems on the Decline

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Poorly controlled blood glucose levels can cause damage to the retinas, eventually leading to vision loss. But the good news is, control through monitoring and medications have caused the rates of visual impairment among those with Type 1 Diabetes to fall significantly over the past 25 years.

Ronald Klein MD, MPH of the University of Wisconsin in Madison collected the data from the longitudinal study Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) and reported the research in the online journal Ophthamology.

The DCCT found that people with diabetes who achieved tight control of their blood sugars were 50-75% less likely to develop retinopathy and other microvascular conditions, such as nephropathy (kidney disease) or neuropathy (nerve damage).

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Diabetic retinopathy is the primary condition that causes blindness in US Adults. Consistent levels of high blood sugar can cause damage to the blood vessels inside the retina of the eye. Symptoms of the disease include blurry or double vision, rings, flashing lights, blank, dark or floating spots, pain or pressure in one or both of the eyes, and trouble with peripheral vision (seeing things out of the sides or corners of the eyes).

Dr. Klein’s study of 995 Type 1 diabetic patients living in Wisconsin found a significant reduction in proliferative retinopathy, the fourth and most advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy. Over 25 years, intensive insulin regimens leading to improved glycemic control have reduced long-term complication rates by 25%.

The study did not evaluate two other common forms of diabetic eye disease: cataract and glaucoma. Cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye and patients with diabetes develop these at an earlier age than non-diabetics. Glaucoma is an increase in the fluid pressure inside the eye that leads to damage to the optic nerve. A person with diabetes is almost twice as likely to get glaucoma than non-diabetics.

Because damage to the eye can occur without symptoms, all diabetic patients should receive a complete eye exam each year to prevent vision loss.

Sources Include:
* Ophthamology 2009 “Changes in visual impairment prevalence by period of diagnosis of diabetes: the Wisconsin Epidemiologic Study of Diabetic Retinopathy.
* National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health
* American Diabetes Association

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