Why are diabetics continuing to lose vision?

Despite growing awareness about diabetic-related vision loss, recent research suggests that most people with diabetes aren't having regular eye exams.

A study published in JAMA Ophthalmology found that nearly 50 percent of people with diabetes and eye damage hadn't visited a doctor for care of their disease during that same time period.

Permanent blindness a concern

In people with high blood sugar levels, light-sensitive tissue that lines the back wall of the eye can become damaged. This can cause swelling of the retina and the inability to see detailed images. If left untreated, diabetic vision problems can lead to permanent blindness, the study authors noted.

"The earlier we catch diabetic eye disease, the greater the likelihood that we can help patients keep their good vision," said study author Neil M. Bressler, M.D., a professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and chief of the retina division at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute. "Clearly this research shows how far we have to go to educate people about this frequent and feared complication."

Risk and education

The study also found that less than half of patients with diabetes were told about the link between diabetes and vision problems by their doctor. About 30 percent of patients already had some type of vision loss associated with the condition.

The researchers said that people with diabetes have at least a 10 percent risk of developing diabetic macular edema. Current treatment involves injecting drugs into the eye to reduce swelling.

Bressler explained that many diabetics fail to see eye doctors because they don't understand the risk association between diabetes and vision problems.

"We can prevent a lot of vision impairment or blindness if we can just get these people into the medical system," he concluded.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

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