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Diabetes-related vision loss rising at ?alarming? rate

The meta-analysis was authored by a global consortium led by researchers at Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) College of Optometry in Florida, US and the Vision and Eye Care Unit at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK.The team also included Australian researchers from Sydney’s Brien Holden Vision Institute and the NHMRC Centre for Clinical Eye Research at Flinders University in Adelaide.An analysis of published population studies from 1990 to 2012 found that blindness and visual impairment due to diabetic retinopathy (DR) increased significantly in the 20-year period.In 2010, one in 39 blind people was blind due to DR, which increased 27 per cent since 1990. Of those with moderate or severe vision impairment, one in 52 people had vision loss attributed to diabetes, an increase of 64 per cent since 1990.The researchers indicated that poor control of glucose levels and lack of access to eye-health services in many parts of the world likely contributed to the increase.Dr Rupert Bourne, lead investigator of the report, ophthalmologist and professor and associate director of the Vision and Eye Research Unit at Anglia Ruskin University, stated, “With the alarming prevalence of vision loss due to diabetes rising more than two-thirds in the last 20 years, the precipitous global epidic of diabetes must be addressed.”During the 20-year period analysed in the study, the regions of the world with the highest number of people visually impaired by DR were South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and west Sub-Saharan Africa. The regions with the highest number of people who were rendered blind from DR were East Asia, tropical Latin America, and south Sub-Saharan Africa.In people older than 50, the greatest increase in the prevalence of blindness caused by DR occurred in south Sub-Saharan Africa, southern Latin America and central Sub-Saharan Africa. Those regions with the greatest increase in the prevalence of visual impairment caused by DR in this age group lived in central, south and tropical Latin America. Results showed a slight decrease in visual impairment caused by DR in south and southeast Asia, Oceania, and east and west Sub-Saharan Africa.The researchers recommended public policy planning in the regions most affected by DR, including improving control of systic risk factors such as glucose and blood pressure among people with diabetes; increasing health education and awareness of the risk of visual loss from DR; and intensified prevention and treatment of DR through the introduction of laser treatments, intra-vitreal injections of steroids and anti-VEGF drugs, among others.