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.
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. 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.
Visit www.aoa.org for more information on diabetes and comprehensive eye examinations.