If you are diabetic, are you having your eyes examined as often as you should? While it is true that a comprehensive eye exam can offer a glimpse of your overall heath, this is especially accurate for individuals with diabetes. Diabetes can cause permanent damage to the eyes by causing diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease in which the blood vessels in the retina can leak, causing swelling of surrounding retina. Diabetic retinopathy may have no symptoms in the early stages, but left untreated, it can cause permanent vision loss and even blindness.
Unfortunately, adults in the United States who are diabetic are not having regular eye exams as often as they should. According to a recent National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the number of diabetics who have visited an ophthalmologist or optometrist in the past 12 months increases with age and longer disease duration, but it is still not ideal.
Maria Villarroel, Ph.D., associate service fellow for the National Center for Health Statistics, and a team of researchers examined data concerning diabetics and their frequency of eye examinations. Dr. Villarroel and her team found that, overall, 57.6 percent of adults with diabetes reported having an eye exam in the past 12 months. Although 66.5 percent of adults aged 65 years and older had visited their eye doctor in the past 12 months, there are still many adults with diabetes who are delaying, postponing or avoiding eye exams.
“The American Diabetes Association recommends that patients with diabetes have a yearly eye exam if there is evidence of retinal damage, so these patients need to have an eye exam every year,” Dr. Villarroel said. “And for those who do not have any signs of retinal damage, the recommendation is to have an eye exam every 2 years.”
These recommendations are not age-based, but rather based on whether or not there are signs of retinal damage. Therefore, the longer a patient has diabetes, the higher the risk of future retinal damage. If you or someone you love has diabetes or retinal damage, make it a top priority to stay current with eye exams. Regular visits to your eye doctor could be the best decision you make because it can help preserve your eyesight. Also, take a few moments to read our Diabetes and Eye Care reference tool (Source: Medscape).