Prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in the US in 2021

Published June 15, 2023, in JAMA Ophthalmology (opens in a new window)



Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a common microvascular complication of diabetes and a leading cause of blindness among working-age adults in the US.


To update estimates of DR and vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy (VTDR) prevalence by demographic factors and US county and state.

Data sources

The study team included data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2005 to 2008 and 2017 to March 2020), Medicare fee-for-service claims (2018), IBM MarketScan commercial insurance claims (2016), population-based studies of adult eye disease (2001 to 2016), 2 studies of diabetes in youth (2021 and 2023), and a previously published analysis of diabetes by county (2012). The study team used population estimates from the US Census Bureau.

Study selection  

The study team included relevant data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vision and Eye Health Surveillance System.

Data extraction and synthesis  

Using bayesian meta-regression methods, the study team estimated the prevalence of DR and VTDR stratified by age, a nondifferentiated sex and gender measure, race, ethnicity, and US county and state.

Main outcomes and measures  

The study team defined individuals with diabetes as those who had a hemoglobin A1c level at 6.5% or more, took insulin, or reported ever having been told by a physician or health care professional that they have diabetes. The study team defined DR as any retinopathy in the presence of diabetes, including nonproliferative retinopathy (mild, moderate, or severe), proliferative retinopathy, or macular edema. The study team defined VTDR as having, in the presence of diabetes, severe nonproliferative retinopathy, proliferative retinopathy, panretinal photocoagulation scars, or macular edema.


This study used data from nationally representative and local population-based studies that represent the populations in which they were conducted. For 2021, the study team estimated 9.60 million people (95% uncertainty interval [UI], 7.90-11.55) living with DR, corresponding to a prevalence rate of 26.43% (95% UI, 21.95-31.60) among people with diabetes. The study team estimated 1.84 million people (95% UI, 1.41-2.40) living with VTDR, corresponding to a prevalence rate of 5.06% (95% UI, 3.90-6.57) among people with diabetes. Prevalence of DR and VTDR varied by demographic characteristics and geography.

Conclusions and relevance  

US prevalence of diabetes-related eye disease remains high. These updated estimates on the burden and geographic distribution of diabetes-related eye disease can be used to inform the allocation of public health resources and interventions to communities and populations at highest risk.

Read full article (opens in a new window)


Lundeen EA, Burke-Conte Z, Rein DB, et al. Prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in the US in 2021. JAMA Ophthalmology. 15 June 2023. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2023.2289.