Michael Duenas, OD, FNAP, is the chief public health officer for the American Optometric Association, a partner of Think About Your Eyes, a national public awareness campaign about the importance of annual eye exams. First Vision Media Group is a media partner of Think About Your Eyes.

In 2015, the CDC estimated that 30.3 million Americans (nearly 10% of the population) have diabetes. Nearly one in four of those with diabetes didn’t know they had it, meaning they were likely not practicing vigilance when it comes to early detection of diabetes-related vision issues. The earliest signs of disglycemia occur in the eye and visual system, so the best defense is an annual eye exam.

Encouraging patients to build a routine of getting a comprehensive eye exam every year from a doctor of optometry provides an annual benchmark for vision health and sometimes early detection of hundreds of systemic diseases such as diabetes. Building a relationship with patients so they actually commit to the annual appointments can go a long way in protecting their vision health.

Most alarming to me is the growing numbers of young people developing Type 2 diabetes. These individuals could potentially develop sight-threatening retinopathy earlier in their life, perhaps during their years of optimum employment. We should be making them aware of the importance of caring for their vision now, while we can still diagnose and treat any vision issues early.

Optometrists play an important role in the detection and treatment of diabetes. Early detection can slow and even reverse the progression of the disease. For example, in 2015 the CDC estimated that 84.1 million American adults have prediabetes. With only one in 10 diagnosed, improved prediabetes diagnosis leading to treatment could possibly reduce future cases of overt Type 2 diabetes.* If a patient has been diagnosed with diabetes, we can work as a team with other doctors to ensure blood glucose, blood pressure and lipids are managed and damage to vision is detected and treated.

Encourage your patients to really think about their vision health, as equivalent to checking their systemic health, and schedule an annual eye exam before 2018.

*Among adults with prediabetes, 11.6% reported being told by a health professional that they had this condition. www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf


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