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Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(2):268

CDC Releases Data on Visual Impairment in Patients with Diabetes

Patients with diabetes are more likely to be visually impaired than those who do not have the disease. However, few studies have examined whether visual impairments in patients with diabetes can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. To estimate the proportion of patients with diabetes who could benefit from such treatments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study in the November 3, 2006, issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Patients with diabetes who had a severe infection in one or both eyes, who were unable to see in either eye, or who were completely blind were excluded from the analysis. Overall, the results suggested that 11 percent of American adults 20 years and older with self-reported diabetes had visual impairments, 65.5 percent of which were correctable. Additionally, 9.7 percent of U.S. adults with diabetes had mild visual impairment, and 1.4 percent of those had a severe visual impairment before correction; after correction, 2.9 percent had mild impairment, and 1 percent of those had severe impairment.

As a result, optimal correction could have restored vision in 73.4 percent of adults with diabetes with mild visual impairments and 9.1 percent of adults with severe impairment. Therefore, health care professionals who care for patients with diabetes should be aware that poor vision often can be corrected, and that doing so can reduce the patient's risk for injury and improve the quality of life.

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