Diabetic Retinopathy and the Cascade Into Vision Loss

Published in: Medical Anthropology [Epub March 2018]. doi: 10.1080/01459740.2018.1425839

Posted on RAND.org on March 28, 2018

by Carolyn Smith-Morris, George H. Bresnick, Jorge Cuadros, Kathryn E. Bouskill, Elin Ronby Pedersen

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Vision loss from diabetic retinopathy should be unnecessary for patients with access to diabetic retinopathy screening, yet it still occurs at high rates and in varied contexts. Precisely because vision loss is only one of many late-stage complications of diabetes, interfering with the management of diabetes and making self-care more difficult, Vision Threatening Diabetic Retinopathy (VTDR) is considered a "high stakes" diagnosis. Our mixed-methods research addressed the contexts of care and treatment seeking in a sample of people with VTDR using safety-net clinic services and eye specialist referrals. We point to conceptual weaknesses in the single disease framework of health care by diagnosis, and we use the framework of "cascades" to clarify why and how certain non-clinical factors come to bear on long-term experiences of complex chronic diseases.

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