The number of Americans with diabetic retinopathy is expected to increase from 5.5 million to 16 million by the year 2050, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.
Diabetic retinopathy, which is damage to the small blood vessels in the retina, is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults in the United States. In 2004, about $500 million was spent on direct medical costs for diabetic retinopathy, according to background information in the study.
"People with diabetes mellitus also have a higher prevalence of other eye diseases, such as cataracts and glaucoma, than the general population," the researchers wrote. "Vision loss related to eye disease among people with diabetes is an important disability that threatens independence and can lead to depression, reduced mobility and reduced quality of life."
For their study, Dr. Jinan B Saaddine and colleagues analyzed data from the 2004 National Health Interview Survey and the U.S. Census Bureau to predict the number of Americans with diabetes who will have diabetic retinopathy, vision threatening diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts in 2050, when the country's population is expected to be 402 million.
Along with the increase in diabetic retinopathy cases from 5.5 million to 16 million, the researchers also projected that:
The number of cases of vision threatening diabetic retinopathy will increase from 1.2 million to 3.4 million.
Among Americans 65 and older, the number of cases of diabetic retinopathy will rise from 2.5 million to 9.9 million, and the number of cases of vision threatening diabetic retinopathy will increase from 500,000 to 1.9 million.
Cataract cases among whites and blacks age 40 or older with diabetes will increase 235 percent.
Cataract cases among people age 75 and older with diabetes will increase 637 percent for black women and 677 percent for black men.
Glaucoma cases among Hispanics age 65 and older with diabetes will increase 12-fold.