It’s Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month: Had An Eye Exam Lately?

Though annual dilated eye exams can prevent 95 percent of diabetes related vision loss, many of us put off getting our eyes checked, sometimes for years.

“Vision loss is tragic, especially when it is preventable,” said Dr. Ann P. Murchison, Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia. “That’s why we want to raise awareness and ensure people with diabetes understand the importance of regular eye exams.”

Who Isn’t Getting Checked

Murchison and her colleagues joined forces with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the eye exam habits of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. After reviewing the charts of 2,000 patients, aged 40 and up, the researchers found:

  • More than half (58 percent) of the patients did not get regular eye exams.
  • Smokers were even less likely to get their eyes checked.
  • Those most eye-exam negligent were patients with mild or moderate diabetes, and no history of eye problems.

Not surprisingly, patients diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy were 30 percent more likely to make and keep follow-up eye appointments.

Now Is The Perfect Time

Those who do not have regular eye exams put themselves at greater risk for visual impairment, particularly from diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. However, there are treatment options for these and other eye conditions when they are detected early.

That is why November - which is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month - is the perfect time to make an appointment with your eye doctor.

“People with diabetes need to know that they shouldn’t wait until they experience problems to get these exams,” says Rahul N. Khurana, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Opthalmology. “Getting your eyes checked by an ophthalmologist can reveal the signs of disease that patients aren’t aware of.”

Exam Help For Some Seniors

For those 65 and older in need of an eye checkup, EyeCare America (link below) has a senior’s program that connects eligible individuals with local volunteer ophthalmologists. Eye exams are provided with no out-of-pocket costs, and a year of follow-up physician care service is provided for problems diagnosed during the first visit.

Beside the age requirement, eligible folks must be U.S. citizens or legal residents, not belong to an HMO, have no eye care benefits through the VA, and have not seen an ophthalmologist in three or more years.

Staying On Track

For people of all ages with diabetes the National Eye Institute recommends protecting our vision by getting an annual eye exam, and staying on TRACK:

    T: Take your medications.
    R: Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
    A: Add physical activity to your daily routine.
    C: Control your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
    K: Kick the smoking habit.

    Sources: Science Daily; EyeCare America/AAO; Medical News Today

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