(BPT) – The leading cause of blindness, diabetes, is steadily growing and is expected to affect one in 10 people worldwide by 2040, the International Diabetes Federation predicts. As prevalent as the condition is, 79 percent of Americans don’t know diabetic eye diseases have no visible symptoms and more than half do not know comprehensive eye examinations can detect diabetes. Those findings are from the 2016 American Eye-Q Survey conducted by the American Optometric Association (AOA).
“In 2014 alone, eye doctors found diabetes-related manifestations in 240,000 patients who were not aware they had diabetes, leading to a prompt diagnosis and care which minimizes the risk of complications,” says AOA President Andrea P. Thau, O.D. “A comprehensive eye examination with a doctor of optometry is important not just to maintain eye and vision health but can be a first line of diagnosis for many systemic diseases.”
The AOA advocates for regular, dilated eye exams for those with diabetes, or at risk for diabetes, because the alternatives, like online vision apps, only check for refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism and cannot detect diabetes.
‘When the eyes are dilated, an eye doctor is able to examine the retina for signs of diabetic eye disease and prescribe a course of treatment to help preserve an individual’s sight,’ Dr. Thau says. ‘Many eye problems show no symptoms until they are in an advanced stage, but early detection and treatment can truly save a person’s vision. No online app can do that.’
The survey, designed to drive education of eye health issues, also found that people diagnosed with diabetes are acutely aware of its effect on eye health and are more likely than the average American to worry about their eye health. In fact, loss of vision is a major fear among members of this group, who report they are three times more concerned about blindness as a diabetes-related side effect than they are about the next largest side effect, kidney failure.
Unfortunately, that worry does not always result in people taking action to better care for their eyes and protect their vision. The study found that only 54 percent of people with diabetes who were surveyed regularly visit their doctor of optometry to understand the toll diabetes is taking on their overall eye health.
The AOA, the leading authority in eye and vision health care, is committed to educating the public about the relationship between diabetes and eye health, as the annual Eye-Q survey shows that after learning about the topic, many participants said they would be prompted to take steps to ensure their eye health. Some additional findings about attitude changes related to diabetes and eye health include the following:
* Learning that the only way to determine if diabetes will cause blindness is through a comprehensive eye exam would prompt 89 percent of Americans to visit a doctor of optometry.
* Understanding that a comprehensive eye exam can sometimes detect and diagnose diabetes sooner than a primary care doctor would prompt 87 percent of Americans to visit a doctor of optometry.
* Learning that diabetic eye diseases have no visible symptoms would prompt 79 percent of Americans to visit a doctor of optometry.
Visit www.aoa.org for more information on diabetes and comprehensive eye examinations.