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Eye Disease Affects Nearly One in Three Diabetics
Date:8/10/2010

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Almost one in three people with diabetes has evidence of the eye disease called diabetic retinopathy, according to new research.

What's more, over 4 percent of people with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy that's so advanced it's threatening their vision, reports the study published in the Aug. 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"This was a national population-based study and we found that among Americans with diabetes who were age 40 and older, that 28.5 percent -- or 4.2 million people -- have diabetic retinopathy. And, 4.4 percent had vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy," said the study's lead author, Dr. Xinzhi Zhang, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The news wasn't all bad, however. The study findings suggest that good control of blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol can go a long way toward preventing diabetic eye disease. And, for those who already have early signs of diabetic retinopathy, treatment with laser surgery is often helpful.

"If you have diabetes, take good care of your diabetes and get your eyes examined regularly," advised Zhang. "If you find problems early and get treatment, you can delay or prevent the loss of vision."

Diabetic retinopathy causes changes in the blood vessels in the eyes. In some cases, new and abnormal blood vessels grow, and in other cases, existing blood vessels swell and leak, according to the U.S. National Eye Institute. Diabetic retinopathy remains the number one cause of vision loss in people aged 20 to 74 in the United States, according to background information in the study.

The last study that looked at national prevalence of diabetic retinopathy was done between 1988 and 1994. To get an updated estimate of what the prevalence of the eye disease might be now, Zhang and his
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