Florida Society of Ophthalmology reiterates the
importance of dilated eye exams in preventing vision loss
People with diabetes are at increased risk of developing serious eye diseases, yet most do not have sight-saving, annual eye exams, according to a large study conducted by the Wills Eye Hospital in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Florida Society of Ophthalmology (FSO) and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are promoting an animated public service announcement highlighting the importance of regular eye exams during the month of November, which is observed as Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month.
Researchers at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, PA have found that more than half of patients with the disease skip these exams. They also discovered that patients who smoke – and those with less severe diabetes and no eye problems – were most likely to neglect having these checks.
The researchers reviewed 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:
- Fifty-eight percent of patients did not have regular follow-up eye exams
- Smokers were 20 percent less likely to have exams
- Those with less-severe disease and no eye problems were least likely to follow recommendations
- Those who had diabetic retinopathy were 30 percent more likely to have follow-up exams
One in 10 Americans have diabetes, putting them at heightened risk for visual impairment due to the eye disease diabetic retinopathy. The disease also can lead to other blinding ocular complications if not treated in time. Fortunately, having a dilated eye exam yearly or more often can prevent 95 percent of diabetes-related vision loss.
Eye exams are critical as they can reveal hidden signs of disease, enabling timely treatment. This is why the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Florida Society of Ophthalmology recommend people with diabetes have eye exams annually or more often as recommended by their ophthalmologist, a physician who specializes in comprehensive medical and surgical eye care.
“It’s vitally important that people with diabetes are fully aware that they should never put off getting an eye exam until they start experiencing problems,” said Sarah Wellik, MD, a Broward County ophthalmologist and President of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology. “Possessing this knowledge is a major step in helping to save their own eyesight,” Dr. Wellik added.
“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. “That’s why we want to raise awareness and ensure people with diabetes understand the importance of regular eye exams.”
According to Wellik, not all patients understand how diabetes impacts the eye and resulting vision loss. “A yearly eye exam is critical to catch the early signs of eye disease that patients may not be aware of so they can begin a treatment plan for vision preservation,” said Dr. Wellik.
About the Florida Society of Ophthalmology
The Florida Society of Ophthalmology is the state’s leading advocate for providing Floridians the highest standard of eye care. The FSO’s mission is to promote and protect the medical specialty of ophthalmology through active participation in legislative advocacy and providing continuing medical education and responsible information to its members, physicians, and the citizens of Florida. Please visit www.mdeye.org for more information.