Statement from National Eye Institute Director Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D.
NIH: November 6, 2012
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults in the United States. According to recent studies funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI), diabetic retinopathy, one of the most common and debilitating complications of diabetes, increased by 3.7 million new cases over the last decade. Approximately 7.7 million Americans are now affected by diabetic retinopathy. Even more alarming, the rate is projected to climb to 11 million by 2030. People with diabetes are also at greater risk for cataracts, which is a clouding of the eye lens, and glaucoma, which damages the optic nerve. But diabetic retinopathy is by far the most common sight-threatening condition among people with diabetes and is the leading cause of blindness in adults aged 20 to 74 years.
In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy has no symptoms. The disease begins to damage the small blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensing layer of tissue in the back of the eye, causing them to leak fluid and blood. As the disease progresses, blood vessels become blocked and rupture or new vessels grow on the retina, leading to permanent and sometimes profound vision loss. Read more