Survey Finds Share With Diabetes Who Get Eye Exams Declines Among Young Patients

Younger patients and those who have been diagnosed less than 5 years are less likely to follow guidelines for regular eye exams, despite the risk of blindness.

Guidelines from the American Diabetes Association call for those with the disease to get an eye exam at least every year—and no less frequently than every 2 years—to watch for changes that could signal the onset of diabetic retinopathy.

Yet despite the risk of diabetic retinopathy, which could progress to diabetic macular edema or blindness, data reported yesterday by the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the CDC, found that only about half of those diabetes with diabetes in the past 5 years had seen an eye specialist in the past 12 months.

According to the data from the 2012-2013 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the likelihood of seeing an “optometrist, ophthalmologist, or eye doctor” increased with age or the number of years since diagnosis. However, the bulletin from CDC suggests that young adults with diabetes are putting off health screenings and therapeutic services that could help them avoid more costly care in the future.

Approximately 51.6% of those diagnosed with diabetes in the previous 5 years had visited an eye specialist within the past 12 months, compared with 57.3% of those diagnosed between 5 and 10 years ago, and 61.2% of those diagnosed more than 10 years ago.

Data showed the following breakdown by age: for those 18 to 39 years old, 38.2% had been seen in the past 12 months; for those aged 40 to 64, 53.8% had been seen; and 66.5% of those 65 and over had been seen.

When stratified by current age, there were no significant differences by years since diagnosis in the percentage who visited an eye specialist among those 18 to 39 or 65 and over.

In the 40 to 64 age group, those who had seen an eye specialist were much more likely to have been diagnosed 10 years ago ore more (58%) than those diagnosed within the past 5 years (49%).

According to the National Eye Institute, diabetes is the leading cause of adult blindness, but those with proliferative retinopathy can reduce their risk of blindness 95% with timely treatment and follow-up care. The key, according to NEI and ADA, is getting checked regularly and catching any deteriorating in blood vessels early.