Eye Disorders and Vision Loss among U.S. Adults Aged 45 and Over with Diagnosed Diabetes

Questions for Lead Author Amy Cha, Statistician, of “Eye Disorders and Vision Loss among U.S. Adults Aged 45 and Over with Diagnosed Diabetes.”

Q: Why did you decide to focus on eye disorder and vision loss for adults aged 45 or older with diagnosed diabetes for this report?

AC: The prevalence of diabetes increases with age. Eye disorders are a frequent complication from diabetes and vision loss is a severe condition that often has a negative impact on a person’s quality of life and mental health. Moreover, duration of diabetes is a risk factor for the progression of visual problems.

This report compared the age-adjusted percentages of older adults (aged 45 and over) with diagnosed diabetes who were told by a doctor or other health professional that they had cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, or macular degeneration and vision loss due to these disorders, by years since their diabetes diagnosis.


Q: Do you have data that directly corresponds with this report that goes back further than 2016?

AC: Data on diabetes, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration were collected in 2002 and 2008 by the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). However, this is the first report covering the prevalence of eye disorders and vision loss among older adults with diagnosed diabetes.


Q: Was there a specific finding in your report that surprised you?

AC: We were surprised that even after accounting for age, adults who have had diagnosed diabetes for 10 years or more were still more likely to have eye disorders than those having diagnosed diabetes for less than 10 years.


Q: Why is it that so many adults with diagnosed diabetes have cataracts?

AC: Diabetes can affect many parts of the body. This report did not examine the causal pathway of diabetes and cataracts.  This report focused on the prevalence of eye disorders by years since diabetes diagnosis in adults aged 45 and older.  We compared two time intervals, those who were diagnosed more recently – less than 10 years, and those who were  diagnosed with diabetes a longer time – 10 years or more. Cataracts and vision loss due to cataracts were both associated with longer duration since diabetes diagnosis.


Q: What is the take home message for this report?

AC: Adults who have had diagnosed diabetes for 10 years or more were more likely to report cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration than those with diagnosed diabetes for less than 10 years. In addition, adults who have had diagnosed diabetes for 10 years or more were more likely to report vision loss due to cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration than those having diagnosed diabetes for less than 10 years.

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