Blacks May Have Higher Risk for Diabetic Vision Loss

Diabetic macular edema may lead to vision loss if left untreated

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Diabetes affects more than 300 million people around the world and has many negative effects, including a higher risk of hypertension, stroke and even vision loss. And a new study suggests blacks may be more at risk for diabetic vision loss.

Referred to as DME, diabetic macular edema can lead to vision loss if left untreated, but effective screening tools can help clinicians nip the complication in the bud.

"If you have diabetes, ask your ophthalmologist about vision loss screening."

The study, which estimated how common DME was in Americans, was written by Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, and colleagues.

DME occurs when fluid and protein builds up on part of the eye. If left untreated, DME can cause vision loss.

The researchers examined 1,038 diabetes patients older than 40 and collected information on age, race, and sex to identify risk factors and trends.

Of the patients, 55 (3.8 percent) had DME. The authors estimated, based on the 2010 US population, that there were 746,000 cases of DME in the US.

Blacks were 2.64 times more likely to have DME than whites, the authors noted.

The authors called for earlier screening and better access to treatment.

“It is imperative that all persons with diabetes receive early screening; this recommendation is even more important for those at a higher risk of DME,” the authors concluded.

The researchers didn't find differences in DME prevalence linked to age or sex.

Dr. Varma, director of the University of Southern California Eye Institute and chair of ophthalmology at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, said there isn’t enough screening for DME among diabetes patients.

“There are much better therapies that are covered by insurance,” he said in a press release. “We hope that our research will help those in the position to influence policy to get a better handle on costs and where the need for treatment is the greatest.”

The study was published online Aug. 14 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Genentech/Roche funded the research. One study author disclosed service as an editor for the publishing journal.

Review Date: 
August 26, 2014
Last Updated:
August 26, 2014