UMDNJ Study Determines Risk Factors
of Vision Loss Among Diabetic African Americans
NEWARK—African Americans with type 1 diabetes have a greater chance of vision loss according to a physician at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School who conducted a six-year study.
Dr. Monique S. Roy of the Institute of Ophthalmology and Visual Science was the lead investigator, teaming up Joan Skurnick, PhD at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Department of Preventive Medicine & Community Health, to determine the incidence of visual loss and associated risk factors in African Americans with type 1 diabetes mellitus.
Roy and Skurnick followed approximately 500 African Americans with type 1 diabetes who were examined in the Eye Clinic of University Hospital. Participants underwent a detailed examination that included best corrected visual acuity, a structured clinical interview, retinal photographs, and blood pressure measurements. In addition, patients were given a structured clinical interview with medical and ophthalmologic histories, sociodemographic factors and lifestyle variables. Their findings appeared in the Archives of Ophthalmology, Vol. 125 No. 8, August 2007.
Roy said, “Compared with type 1 diabetic in whites, African-Americans with type 1 diabetes have more visual loss defined as doubling of the visual angle in the better eye. The lower incidence of blindness in the Africans-Americans compared with rates previously reported in other populations may be due to differences in the time points at which patients were enrolled, changes in treatments, and selective mortality of African-American patients with severe visual impairment at baseline.”
After six years, Roy and Skurnick found that 4.3 percent of the study patients developed visual loss in their better eye, defined as a visual acuity of 20/40 or worse, and 0.6 percent became blind in their better eye, which was considered to be a visual acuity of 20/200 or worse.
Another 9.8 percent developed a doubling of the visual angle in their better eye, defined as the loss of 15 or more letters on the eye chart between the first and second visit. Another 13.5 percent showed a doubling of the visual angle in either eye.
In addition to poor control of blood sugar levels at baseline, the researchers found that older age, high protein levels in the urine (a symptom of kidney disease), and severity level of diabetic retinopathy —a degenerative disease of the retina common among those with diabetes—were all independent and significant predictors of vision loss over six years.
They noted that previous studies have examined the rate of visual impairments among Caucasians with type 1 diabetes, but, to their knowledge, there have been no similar studies conducted for a large group of African Americans.
Skurnuck said, "These findings reaffirm the importance of glycemic control in the African American diabetic population."
To request an interview with Dr. Roy or Dr. Skurnick please contact Terri Guess at UMDNJ News Service, at (973) 972 5000.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.