Prevalence of Nonrefractive Visual Impairment Increasing

From 1999-2002 to 2005-2008, increase linked to rising prevalence of long-duration diabetes

TUESDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- From 1999-2002 to 2005-2008, there has been an increase in the prevalence of nonrefractive visual impairment, which may be partly due to the increasing prevalence of diabetes, specifically long-duration diabetes, according to research published in the Dec. 12 issue of the Journal of American Medical Association.

Fang Ko, M.D., from the Wilmer Eye Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues examined the prevalence of nonrefractive visual impairment using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for 9,471 participants in 1999 to 2002 and for 10,480 participants in 2005 to 2008.

The researchers found that for U.S. adults aged 20 years and older there was a 21 percent increase in the weighted prevalence of nonrefractive visual impairment: from 1.4 percent in 1999 to 2002 to 1.7 percent in 2005 to 2008. Among non-Hispanic whites aged 20 to 39 years there was a 40 percent increase: from 0.5 to 0.7 percent. In 1999 to 2002, significant risk factors for nonrefractive visual impairment included age, poverty, lack of insurance, and diabetes with 10 or more years since diagnosis. Significant risk factors for 2005 to 2008 included age, poverty, education less than high school, and diabetes with 10 or more years since diagnosis. There was an increase in the prevalence of diabetes with 10 or more years since diagnosis: from 2.8 to 3.6 percent overall and from 0.3 to 0.7 percent among non-Hispanic whites aged 20 to 39 years.

"If the current finding becomes a persisting trend, it could result in increasing rates of disability in the U.S. population, including greater numbers of patients with end-organ diabetic damage who would require ophthalmic care," the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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