People diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in recent years are less likely to develop diabetes-related vision loss than those diagnosed in earlier years, says a new study funded by the National Eye Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health. Forecasts of visual impairment prevalence in T1D patients may need to be amended, the researchers suggest, since current predictions assume that the earlier incidence rates will continue.
Ronald Klein, MD, MPH, and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences assessed visual acuity over 25 years in 955 people diagnosed with T1D in one of four time periods, with the earliest defined as "before 1960" and the latest as "1975 through 1979."
"Visual impairment in T1D patients may be decreasing for several reasons," Dr. Klein said. "Effective treatments for diabetic retinopathy (DR) and related macular edema became widely available in the 1970s, and earlier screening and detection of DR began in the 1980s. In the 1990s, we learned that intensive control of blood glucose could significantly impact DR progression in T1D, so physicians and patients began closely monitoring this factor and controlling it with diet, exercise and medication."
Key findings include: among participants who had T1D for 30 to 34 years at the time their eyes were examined for the study, impaired vision was found in 16 percent of those diagnosed from 1922 through 1959, compared with 9 percent of those diagnosed from 1970 through 1974; also, among patients who had T1D for 15 to 19 years at the time they were examined, impaired vision was found in only four percent of those diagnosed from 1975 through 1979.
This research was published in the October issue of Ophthalmology
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