Sixty Percent of Americans with Diabetes Skip Annual Sight-Saving Exams

Advanced Eyecare Professionals and the American Academy of Ophthalmology reiterate the importance of dilated eye exams in preventing vision loss.

People with diabetes are at increased risk of developing serious eye diseases, yet most do not have sight-saving, annual eye exams, according to a large study. Advanced Eyecare Professionals (AEP) joins the Academy in reiterating the importance of eye exams during the month of November, which is observed as Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month.

Researchers at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia have found that more than half of patients with the disease skip these exams. They also discovered that patients who smoke – and those with less severe diabetes and no eye problems – were most likely to neglect having these checks.

The researchers collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to review the charts of close to 2,000 patients age 40 or older with type 1 and type 2 diabetes to see how many had regular eye exams. Their findings over a four-year period revealed that:

• Fifty-eight percent of patients did not have regular follow-up eye exams
• Smokers were 20 percent less likely to have exams
• Those with less-severe disease and no eye problems were least likely to follow recommendations
• Those who had diabetic retinopathy were 30 percent more likely to have follow-up exams

One in 10 Americans have diabetes, putting them at heightened risk for visual impairment due to the eye disease diabetic retinopathy. The disease also can lead to other blinding ocular complications if not treated in time. Fortunately, having a dilated eye exam yearly or more often can prevent 95 percent of diabetes-related vision loss.

“Vision loss is tragic, especially when it is preventable,” says Dr. Michael Flohr, M.D., an ophthalmologist with the AEP team. “During Diabetic Awareness month and always, we want to help educate people on sight saving preventative care. Please make your eyes a priority and get an annual dilated eye exam.”

Eye exams are critical as they can reveal hidden signs of disease, enabling timely treatment. This is why the Academy recommends people with diabetes have them annually or more often as recommended by their ophthalmologist, a physician who specializes in medical and surgical eye care.

“Diabetes can cause serious vision loss that can often be prevented by regular annual eye exams and early detection of changes that may not give patients symptoms until damage is more advanced,” says Dr. David Harrell, M.D., an AEP eye care team ophthalmologist.

The Academy offers an animated public service announcement on their aao.org website to help educate people about the importance of regular exams and common eye diseases including diabetic retinopathy.

Find more information on diabetic eye care contact our office.

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