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High Levels of Diabetic Retinopathy in Old People

Research published in J.A.M.A.(The Journal of the American Medical Association) reports high levels of diabetic retinopathy amongst older sufferers

August 2010

Almost 30 per cent of older adults with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy, and it is sufficient to threaten sight in 4 per cent, says a US research report published in JAMA.

In 2005-08 researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US investigated the prevalence of, and risk factors for, this eye disease.

A representative sample of 1006 US adults aged over 40 years, who had diabetes (defined as a self-reported and excluding gestational diabetes mellitus.

Two fundus photographs of each eye were captured to determine and classify diabetic retinopathy.
Extrapolating results to the diabetic population level indicated that at that time, an estimated 28.5 per cent of people with diabetes had diabetic retinopathy, and 4.4 per cent had sight-threatening retinopathy. Retinopathy was slightly more common in men with diabetes (31.6 per cent) than women (25.7 per cent).

Ethnicity proved to produce a larger difference in the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy: 26.4 per cent of non-Hispanic white people, 38.8 per cent of non-Hispanic black people, and 34.0 per cent of Mexican American people with diabetes had diabetic retinopathy. About 3.2 per cent of non-Hispanic white people, 9.3 per cent of non-Hispanic black people and 7.3 per cent of Mexican American people with diabetes had sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy was also more likely among people with higher HbA1c level, who had had diabetes for longer, who used insulin (47.4 per cent vs. 26.7 per cent), and who had higher systolic blood pressure.

Further information

Diabetes and the eye

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