Sixty percent of diabetics skip their annual eye exams: Are you one of them?

If you have diabetes it can have serious consequences on your eye health. It can result in impaired vision demonstrated in the photo. Regular eye exams are key to prevention.

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month. It’s an important initiative—patients tend to forget about the effects that diabetes can have on the eye, like worsening cataracts, glaucoma, devastating effects on the retina, and even total blindness.

But, despite diabetics being at increased risk of developing serious eye diseases, most do not have sight-saving, annual eye exams, according to a large study.

Researchers at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia 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 to have these checks.

The researchers collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to review 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 has 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. They can reveal hidden signs of disease and enable timely treatment. This is why the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends people with diabetes have them annually or as recommended by their ophthalmologist (a physician who specializes in medical and surgical eye care).

“Diabetes affects every organ in the body, and the eye is no exception,” says Dr. Raj Patel, fellowship-trained retina surgeon with Carolina Ophthalmology. “With each passing year, the risk of developing diabetic eye disease increases. The sooner these changes are detected, the better the outcome for the patient.”

The AAO has released a new animated public service announcement to help educate people about the importance of regular exams and common eye diseases including diabetic retinopathy.

According to Dr. Patel, “With the advances made in medical science, there is no reason one should wait for vision loss to occur before seeking treatment. Yearly eye exams can go a long way toward protecting your eyesight for the rest of your life.”

For more information on diabetic retinopathy, visit Carolina Ophthalmology’s website.

To schedule an appointment with one of the highly qualified ophthalmologists at Carolina Ophthalmology or for more information, please call 800-624-6575, or visit their website at