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Regular Eye Screens Spot Diabetic Vision Trouble

Chronic high blood sugar is leading cause of adult-onset blindness, experts note

TUESDAY, Sept. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Diabetics are more likely to get their vision checked if they have access to health care, as well as information about why those screenings are important, experts say.

However, minorities with diabetes or people living in rural areas are still less likely to get screened, even when they know why it is important to do so.

Vision screenings can help prevent retinopathy, a progressive degeneration of the retina which is a complication of diabetes. The small blood vessels of the eye can become damaged by years of high blood sugar levels.

In its early stages, a person with diabetes may experience no symptoms or only a mild blurring of their vision. But, as vision trouble progresses, people begin to see spots or "floaters" in their field of vision. Diabetes is the leading cause of adult-onset blindness in the United States. Managing blood sugar levels and blood pressure levels can help prevent diabetic retinopathy.

The American Diabetic Association recommends that people with diabetes get an eye check with dilation every year. Only 47 percent of diabetics get their annual vision check, according to the most recent data.

The importance of educating patients and doctors about vision screenings is highlighted in research published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study analyzed data from 48 studies focused on efforts to increase the awareness of vision screenings among diabetics. The data came from more than 160,000 participants from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

"In all randomized controlled trials but one, interventions achieved statistically significant increases in retinal screening rates in the intervention group compared to the control group," lead researcher Xuanping Zhang said in a prepared statement.

The studies ranged in approaches to promoting eye exams. Some focused on patients or populations, while others built awareness in health care providers. The following interventions were effective, according to the analysis:

  • increasing patient and provider awareness of diabetic retinopathy;
  • improving access to health care;
  • introducing computer-based registration or reminder systems;
  • collaborating among local organizations that provide retinal screening;
  • developing a community-based health care system.

The researchers noted that success is more likely when the programs are part of a multi-faceted intervention.

More information

For more on diabetic retinopathy, visit the American Optometric Association.

-- Madeline Vann

SOURCE: Health Behavior News Service, news release, Sept. 25, 2007

Copyright©2007 ScoutNews,LLC.
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