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Long-term diabetes, obesity, poverty and vision loss

December 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
New studies are finding there are consequences to living with diabetes for longer periods of time.

We've all heard of how obesity and Type-2 diabetes are affecting younger Americans in epidemic proportions. Now new studies are finding there are consequences to living with diabetes for longer periods of time. A new study looks at how vision loss is on the rise.

Millions of Americans need corrective lenses. Jerry Fishman is part of a growing group whose vision loss can't be corrected with glasses.

"My retina, both of them, had swollen to such a degree that it was becoming almost impossible for me to see anything clearly," said Fishman.

Fishman was diagnosed diabetic retinopathy.

"In working-age Americans, it's diabetic eye disease that is a predominant cause of retinal disease," said Dr. David S. Friedman, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

New research provided by the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at data from people participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 1999 and 2005.

Those living below the poverty line had almost twice the rate of vision loss as those with incomes above the poverty level.

"The only major risk factor for vision loss that increased over time was diabetes lasting 10 or more years," said Friedman. "The prevalence of diabetes is increasing and people are having it longer because they are having it at a younger age."

And researchers saw diabetic retinopathy rise during the two study periods. Twenty percent in those older than 40, and 40 percent in those younger than 40.

Fishman decided to take action.

"I've made my mind up that if it's going to get better and I'm not going to create havoc on my body I was going to have to be a good boy about it," said Fishman.

And he was. After getting his diagnosis, Fishman changed his diet, lifestyle and is making great progress.

"That was almost a year ago, you've had remarkable recovery and that's completely flat now and that's why your vision is so much better," said Friedman to Fishman.

"Much better," said Fishman.

Strategies to prevent vision loss from diabetes include keeping a tight control over your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. And no smoking.


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