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Diabetes mellitus ups risk of vision impairment in elderly adults

27 Apr 2018

Community-dwelling elderly adults with diabetes mellitus have a higher risk of near vision impairment (VI), particularly those with low or normal body mass index (BMI), a recent study has shown.

Over the 7-year study duration, 1,218 incident cases of near VI were reported. Both diagnosed and undiagnosed DM were associated with significantly elevated risks of near VI development (hazard ratio [HR], 1.29; 95 percent CI, 1.07–1.56).

While this relationship was attenuated following full adjustments for age, sex, health behaviours, hearing impairment, among other covariates (HR, 1.19; 0.98–1.43; p=0.07), the association remained significant when only diagnosed DM was considered (HR, 1.24; 1.02–1.52) in the fully adjusted model.

However, when frailty was taken into consideration, DM, whether undiagnosed (HR, 1.23; 0.98–1.54; p=0.07) or diagnosed (HR, 1.24; 0.98–1.59; p=0.08) was not significantly associated with near VI development.

Further analyses showed that body mass index (BMI) may also have a role to play in this association. Fully adjusted Cox models showed that participants with DM and who were also underweight (hazard ratio [HR], 2.89; p=0.02) and normal-weight (HR, 1.60; p=0.01) had a significantly higher risk of VI development.

“Because near vision is required to perform almost all [activities of daily living], older people with DM need special monitoring by an ophthalmologist, not only for a dilated eye examination, but also to assess their global visual function and treat any correctable impairments,” said researchers.

For the longitudinal study, researchers recruited 8,412 community-dwelling elderly adults (aged 65 years), of whom 690 had diagnosed DM while 117 had undiagnosed DM. Near VI was defined as having a Snellen score greater than 20/30.

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