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Non-refractive visual impairment may be related to diabetes

A recent cross-sectional study has found that an increase in visual problems that cannot be corrected with lenses may be related to a rise in prevalence of diabetes. Led by Dr. David S. Friedman of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, the researchers gathered physical exam information from a set of patients in 1999-2002 and another set in 2005-2008. The team measured the prevalence of  “non-refractive visual impairment” in both time periods, and analyzed potential risk factors for these vision problems, including age, sex, race, schooling, income, obesity, diabetes diagnosis and amount of time since diabetes diagnosis. The researchers found that non-refractive visual impairment increased in the overall study population during both time periods. While most potential risk factors decreased or remained stable over these years, the one exception was prevalence of diabetes diagnosed at least 10 years previously, which increased. As a result, many visual problems may be related to diabetes. People with diabetes often lose vision due to abnormalities in the blood vessels of the retina, and these individuals are also more vulnerable to cataracts and glaucoma. Because this study was cross-sectional, it did not follow patients over time. However, despite this limitation, the research does show an important relationship that needs to be considered when evaluating patient health. Ongoing population studies should be conducted to further validate this relationship between diabetes and non-refractive visual impairment.

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