Objective: To determine eye care utilization patterns among older Americans, particularly characterizing those who sought different types of providers, and the predictive factors for seeking eye care services in general and among those with diabetes and those with visual loss.
Design and participants: The SEE Project, a population-based survey of 2520 persons aged 65 to 84 in Salisbury, Maryland, provided cross-sectional data on eye care use. Questions on eye care use, demographics, medical history, and other factors were asked on the home interview.
Main outcome measures: Use of an eye care provider in the previous year, with additional outcomes of use of different types of eye care providers.
Results: Blacks were significantly less likely to see any type of eye care provider over 1 year: 50% versus 69% among whites. Those who reported having a vision problem, those with more education, and those in the older age groups were significantly more likely to see either an ophthalmologist or an optometrist. Diabetes and driving a car were predictive factors for seeing an ophthalmologist but not for seeing an optometrist. Self-report of diabetes and eye care problems, and being a current driver, were predictive of seeing an eye care professional among those with visual impairment.
Conclusions: Although blacks are known to be at greater risk for several age-related eye diseases, they are much less likely to see an eye care provider. Interventions that remove barriers to eye care services should be considered.