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Survey Finds Many Americans Clueless About Eye Disease
Date:3/13/2008

Findings point to need for education, outreach efforts, experts say

THURSDAY, March 13 (HealthDay News) -- Many Americans are unaware of the warning signs of eye diseases that could blind them if not detected and treated soon enough, a new survey shows.

The telephone survey, released Thursday by the U.S. National Eye Institute and the Lions Clubs International Foundation, included interviews conducted with 3,000 adults between October 2005 and January 2006. The findings highlight the need to educate people about common eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration.

"Good eyesight is important to our quality of life, and it is essential for adults to have accurate information to help them make informed decisions about their eye health needs," Dr. Paul A. Sieving, director of the eye institute, said in a prepared statement. "These survey results will help us identify specific ways in which we can close the gap in knowledge about eye diseases and address disparities that exist."

Among the findings:

  • While 71 percent of respondents said losing their eyesight would have a devastating impact on their daily life, only 8 percent knew there were no early warning signs of glaucoma, a disease that can damage the optic nerve and result in vision loss and blindness.
  • Fifty-one percent said they'd heard that diabetes increases the risk of developing eye disease, but only 11 percent knew there are usually no warning signs.
  • Only 16 percent knew of the term "low vision," which affects millions of Americans and can't be corrected with standard eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery. Low vision makes it difficult to do simple everyday activities such as reading, cooking, writing, watching TV and shopping.
  • Among all racial/ethnic groups, Hispanic respondents reported the lowest access to eye health information, knew the least about
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