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Diabetes and Serious Eye Diseases


People with diabetes are at increased risk of developing serious eye diseases, yet most do not have sight-saving, annual eye exams. Researchers at Wills Eye Hospital found that more than half of patients with the disease skip these recommended exams. They also discovered that patients who smoke and those with less severe diabetes exams were more 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:

  1. Fifty-eight percent of patients did not have regular follow-up eye exams

  2. Smokers were 20 percent less likely to have exams

  3. Those with less-severe disease and no eye problems were least likely to follow recommendations

  4. Those who had diabetic retinopathy were 30 percent more likely to have follow-up exams

Approximately one in 10 people living in North America have been diagnosed with diabetes, putting them at increased risk for visual impairment due to diabetic retinopathy[1].

Fortunately, having a dilated eye exam yearly or more often can prevent up to 95% of diabetes-related vision loss through early diagnosis and treatment. Eye exams are critical as they can reveal hidden signs of disease, enabling timely treatment.

“Vision loss is tragic, especially when it is preventable,” said Ann P. Murchison, M.D., M.P.H., lead author of the study and director of the eye emergency department at Wills Eye Hospital. “That’s why we want to raise awareness and ensure people with diabetes understand the importance of regular eye exams.”

[1] American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-diabetic-retinopathy


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