Almost 10 million Americans have diabetic retinopathy and may be at risk for blindness, according to a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology.
Dr. David Rein and colleagues analyzed data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vision and Eye Health Surveillance System to estimate the number of people in the U.S. who have diabetic retinopathy and vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy in 2021.
The researchers found that an estimated 9.6 million people in the United States had diabetic-related eye disease—about 26% of those with diabetes. They also found that about 2 million had the most severe form, vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy (VTDR)—about 5% of people with diabetes.
Furthermore, the study found that the number of adults aged 40 and older with diabetes-related eye disease in 2021 is more than double what it was in 2004, from 4.1 million to 9.6 million in 2021. Similarly, the number of people living with VTDR has nearly doubled, from 899,000 to 1.84 million in 2021.
“This finding illustrates the burden of this potentially vision-threatening complication of diabetes,” said Dr. Rein.
The researchers also found that the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy was higher among younger people. More than 1 in 10 people aged 24 and under had diabetic retinopathy, and nearly 1 in 5 people aged 25 to 39 had diabetic retinopathy.
The findings also revealed that the number of VTDR cases is higher for Black (9%) and Hispanic (7%) individuals than white people (4%).
“This suggests that negative social determinants of health, such as poverty, lack of healthcare access, and likely poor diet and exercise, are resulting in higher rates of diabetes, poorer glucose control among people with diabetes, and greater rates of diabetes complications like diabetic retinopathy,” Dr. Rein said.