Diabetes and blindness: Americans know the danger but aren't getting eye exams

Research released today by the American Diabetes Association proves that awareness doesn't always spur action.

Specifically, 96 percent of people surveyed in the Diabetes Eye Health Study said they were aware that diabetes can cause blindness, but 20 percent of those people had not had an eye exam in the past 12 months.

The study surveyed U.S. adults who currently have diabetes, assessing the level of knowledge and awareness that patients had about annual eye exams and eye health.

Annual eye exams help to avoid complications

"Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults," John E. Anderson, MD, President, Medicine & Science, American Diabetes Association, said in a press release. "For the nearly 20 million people who have been diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S., it is critical that they receive an annual eye exam to avoid complications and lower their risk of glaucoma, cataracts and other eye problems such as diabetic macular edema."

And while a significant number of participants say they aren't getting regular eye exams, 74 percent report that they're at least somewhat worried about the diabetes and blindness connection, and 83 percent said it's important to have an annual eye exam.

In terms of where patients are getting their information, the survey showed that 82 percent receive advice about diabetes and eye health from their doctors, while 46 percent get it from an optometrist.

The good news is that 97 percent of patients with diabetes who have ever received an eye exam have done so since the diabetes diagnosis.

Important for diabetics to be educated

Where diabetic macular edema is concerned - a condition characterized by swelling of the retina due to fluid leaking from blood vessels in the eye - 52 percent of patients with diabetes aren't familiar with the condition at all.

"May is Healthy Vision Month, and this research demonstrates the need for us to continue to educate people with diabetes about the importance of eye health and receiving an annual eye exam," Anderson said.

The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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