Diabetes and Vision Loss
Updated January 2012
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Census Bureau spend significant amounts of time tracking the U.S. population in a variety of important areas. Information included in their tracking involves demographic data about the population as a whole, health and impairment indicators such as the presence of diseases, and the resulting impact on each person's life. As a result of the aging of the U.S. population and the rising incidence of obesity, researchers are increasingly interested in the rising prevalence of diabetes and vision loss.
The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducts the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which has been an important tool in gathering specific health-related information based on self report. Conducted continuously since 1957, NHIS is a health survey of the civilian, noninstitutionalized, household population of the United States. The survey provides information on the health of the United States population, including information on the prevalence and incidence of disease, the extent of disability, and the utilization of health care services. Adult respondents are asked whether a health professional had ever told them they had diabetes. To exclude gestational diabetes, women are asked whether they had been told they had diabetes other than during pregnancy. Adult respondents are asked whether they have any trouble seeing even when wearing glasses or contact lenses.
It is important to note that about one-third of persons with diabetes are unaware they have diabetes because their diabetes has not been diagnosed. Therefore, the NHIS may underestimate the true prevalence of visual impairment in adults with diabetes. In addition, NHIS data on history of diabetes and visual impairment are self-reported. However, studies have found self-reported visual impairment to be high in accuracy.
- In 2009, the crude rate of reported visual impairment among adults with diabetes (aged 18 years or older) was 19.7%. The crude prevalence of visual impairment decreased slightly from 1997 (26.0%) to 2009 (19.7%). Trends in crude and age-adjusted prevalence were similar, suggesting that the aging of the population had little or no effect on trends during this time period.
- In 2009, 3.8 million adults with diabetes (aged 18 years or older) reported visual impairment, that is, trouble seeing even while wearing glasses or contact lenses. That number has risen from 2.7 million in 1997, and has increased annually since 1999.
- In 2009, 14.9% of adults aged 18-44 years with diabetes reported having a visual impairment, 20.4% of adults aged 45-64, 20.4% of adults aged 65-74 and 21.5% of adults ages 75 years or older with diabetes reported a visual impairment. More information from the CDC about diabetes and visual impairment.