Diabetes-related vision loss on the rise

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Nonrefractive vision loss, caused by conditions including diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration, is a type of vision loss that cannot be corrected with glasses. Studies have shown this problem to be on the rise in people under 40, as has the prevalence of diabetes. Could the two be connected?

Researchers from Johns Hopkins who conducted a study estimating the prevalence of nonrefractive visual impairment and describing its relationship with certain risk factors, seem to think so. Their findings, published in JAMA, revealed that vision loss related to type 2 diabetes has increased by 20 percent in less than ten years. And this increase is largely occurring in people ages 20 to 39.

According to Dr. David Musch, a professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Michigan, this kind of vision loss is usually rare in adults under 40, but Americans have been developing what was once called adult-onset diabetes at younger and younger ages, spurred by childhood obesity and poor nutrition ¦We could see vision loss soar as all these diabetic kids and young adults grow up.

Study author and Johns Hopkins University doctor David Friedman echoes this sentiment saying he sees these study results as indicative of future trends. However, we hope that with recent reports indicating that the rate of childhood obesity is actually decreasing in some cities, we will see this trend of increasing visual impairment level off.

For more information on the health effects of obesity read the ACSH book Obesity and Its Health Effects.