American Optometric Association’s Annual Survey Reveals Misconceptions about Diagnosing Diabetes and its Related Eye Diseases

October 27, 2016

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Deirdre Middleton, 703.837.1347 
Angela Salerno-Robin  312.233.1243  

Those living with diabetes are three times more concerned about losing vision than possible side effect of kidney failure.

ST. LOUIS - The leading cause of blindness, diabetes, is steadily growing and is expected to affect one in 10 people worldwide by 2040, the International Diabetes Federation predicts. As prevalent as the condition is, 79% of Americans don't know diabetic eye diseases have no visible symptoms and more than half do not know comprehensive eye examinations can detect diabetes, according to the 2016 American Eye-Q® Survey conducted by the American Optometric Association (AOA) and released in advance of November's American Diabetes Month®.  

"In 2014 alone, eye doctors found diabetes-related manifestations in 240,000 patients who were not aware they had diabetes, leading to a prompt diagnosis and care which minimizes the risk of complications," said AOA President Andrea P. Thau, O.D. "A comprehensive eye examination with a doctor of optometry is important not just to maintain eye and vision health but can be a first line of diagnosis for many systemic diseases."

The AOA advocates for regular, dilated eye exams for those with diabetes, or at risk for diabetes, because the alternatives, like online vision apps, only check for refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism and cannot detect diabetes.  

"When the eyes are dilated, an eye doctor is able to examine the retina for signs of diabetic eye disease and prescribe a course of treatment to help preserve an individual's sight," Dr. Thau said. "Many eye problems show no symptoms until they are in an advanced stage, but early detection and treatment can truly save a person's vision. No online app can do that."

The survey, designed to drive education of eye health issues, also found that people diagnosed with diabetes are acutely aware of its effect on eye health and are more likely than the average American to worry about their eye health. In fact, loss of vision is a major fear among members of this group, who report that they are three times more concerned about blindness as a diabetes-related side effect than they are about the next largest side effect, kidney failure.

Unfortunately, that worry does not always result in people taking action to better care for their eyes and protect their vision. The study found that only 54% of people with diabetes who were surveyed regularly visit their doctor of optometry to understand the toll diabetes is taking on their overall eye health.

During Diabetes Awareness Month, the AOA, the leading authority in eye and vision healthcare, is committed to educating the public about the relationship between diabetes and eye health, as the annual Eye-Q survey shows that after learning about the topic many participants said they would be prompted to take steps to ensure their eye health. 

Some additional findings about attitude changes related to diabetes and eye health include the following:

  • Learning that the only way to determine if diabetes will cause blindness is through a comprehensive eye exam would prompt 89% of Americans to visit a doctor of optometry.
  • Understanding that a comprehensive eye exam can sometimes detect and diagnose diabetes sooner than a primary care doctor would prompt 87% of Americans to visit a doctor of optometry.
  • Learning that diabetic eye diseases have no visible symptoms would prompt 79% of Americans to visit a doctor of optometry.

Visit for more information on diabetes and comprehensive eye examinations.


A bout the American Eye-Q® survey:
The AOA 2016 American Eye-Q® survey was created and commissioned in conjunction with Edelman Intelligence. From September 22-28, Edelman Intelligence conducted 1,000 online interviews among Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of the U.S. general population. The margin of error for this sample is +/- 3.1% at the 95% confidence level.

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):
The American Optometric Association, a federation of state, student and armed forces optometric associations, was founded in 1898. Today, the AOA is proud to represent the profession of optometry, America's family eye doctors, who take a leading role in an individual's overall eye and vision care, health and well-being. Doctors of optometry (ODs) are the independent primary health care professionals for the eye and have extensive, ongoing training to examine, diagnose, treat and manage disorders, diseases and injuries that affect the eye and visual system, providing two-thirds of primary eye care in the U.S. For information on a variety of eye health and vision topics, and to find a doctor of optometry near you, visit

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