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12/19/2008 - Articles

Massive increase in diabetic eye disease predicted

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD



Diabetes is associated with eye disease, including retinopathy. As cases of diabetes go up, so too will the number of people with affected vision, according to a new analysis and projection. By 2050, the number of cases of retinopathy will increase from 5.5 million in 2005 to as many as 16 million in 2050. This is another reason for doing everything possible to prevent diabetes.


Diabetic retinopathy involves damage to the small blood vessels in the retina and it is a common consequence of elevated blood glucose occurring in type 2 diabetes. It is the leading cause of blindness among American working age adults. And people with diabetes also have a higher incidence of other eye-related conditions like cataract and glaucoma. As diabetes itself is on the increase, we can expect more people to be affected by eye problems, which threaten their independence, mobility and quality of life.

What was done

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA used prevalence data on diabetic retinopathy, including cases that threaten vision, glaucoma and cataract from national health databases and then worked out how many Americans would have these conditions by 2050.

What was found

The US population will reach 402 million by 2050. The researchers estimate that the number of cases of diabetic retinopathy will go up from 5.5 million in 2005 to 16 million in 2050 and vision-threatening retinopathy will increase from 1.2 million to 3.4 million; these increases will be concentrated in the over-65 age group. Cataract cases will rise by over 200 percent in those over 40 and by over 600 percent among those over 75.

What this study means

Future increases in the number of Americans with diabetes will likely lead to significant increases in the number with DR, glaucoma, and cataracts. It is important to have accurate information on this issue, because it will help policy makers plan resources, for both management and prevention of diabetes-related complications. And the public should realize it's important to prevent diabetes if at all possible, because it can threaten your vision. This study shows the projected burden of eye disease among Americans with diabetes is actually higher than previously believed.


Projection of Diabetic Retinopathy and Other Major Eye Diseases Among People With Diabetes Mellitus United States, 2005-2050
JB. Saaddine, AA. Honeycutt,  et al., Archives of Ophthalmology, 2008, vol. 126, pp. 1740--1747

Created on: 12/19/2008
Reviewed on: 12/19/2008

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