The 3 Reasons Patients With Diabetes Don’t Get Eye Care

Patients are overlooking preventative care for diabetic eye disease.


As diabetes becomes more prevalent, so do eye diseases. The good news is that many patients are aware of the risk. However, they may think that they do not need regular eye checkups. Patient awareness of the value of prevention is a key message in a study by researchers from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

In their study of 323 patients, 41% of patients with type 1 diabetes (T1DM) and 10% of those with type 2 diabetes (T2DM) had diabetic retinopathy. One-third of patients had myopia, astigmatism, and other common visual defects, 36% had cataract, and 13% had glaucoma. The patients with T1DM were about 5 times more likely to have more than 3 eye diseases than were those with type 2.

Related: Patients Know About Diabetic Retinopathy Risk—But Don’t Get Screened

But all patients with T1DM and 95% of those with T2DM knew that diabetes could damage the eyes. Further, the “vast majority” of all the patients knew the benefit of maintaining good glycemic control and getting regular eye examinations by an ophthalmologist. About 91% of patients with T1DM and 85% of patients with T2DM knew that controlling blood pressure and lipids also was important. But one-quarter of the participants thought nothing could be done to prevent diabetic eye diseases—that they were the result of bad luck.

About 71% of the participants were examined by an ophthalmologist in the previous year. Exploring the reasons, the researchers found 3 main barriers: Patients said they had no visual symptoms, they felt they didn’t need an exam because their diabetes was well controlled, or they did not get recommendations from their family physician or diabetologist. The researchers say diabetic retinopathy may be underestimated because some patients are not getting eye exams.

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Conversely, the 3 main reasons for regular eye exams, according to patient reports, were that health care professionals recommended them, patients were aware of the importance of regular controls, and they knew the risks of diabetes-related retinal problems.

The researchers say physicians can help by emphasizing that preventive care includes regular eye exams. They also suggest that it may be time to “broaden the diabetes education perspective” and include all significant diabetic eye diseases instead of focusing on diabetic retinopathy.



 Konstantinidis L, Carron T, de Ancos E, et al. BMC Endocr Disord. 2017;17(1):56.

doi: 10.1186/s12902-017-0206-2.

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