Objective: To assess whether adults with diagnosed diabetes in the United States are receiving recommended eye examinations for detection of diabetic retinopathy and what factors are associated with receiving them.
Design, setting, and participants: The design was a cross-sectional survey of the civilian, noninstitutionalized US population 18 years of age or older, based on the 1989 National Health Interview Survey. A multistage probability sampling strategy was used to identify a representative sample of 84,572 persons. A questionnaire on diabetes was administered to all subjects with diagnosed diabetes (n = 2405).
Main outcome measure: A dilated eye examination in the past year.
Main results: Of all adults with diagnosed diabetes in the United States, only 49% had a dilated eye examination in the past year. This included 57% of people with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), 55% with insulin-treated non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), and 44% with NIDDM not treated with insulin. Even among diabetics at high risk of vision loss because of retinopathy or long duration of diabetes, the proportion with a dilated eye examination was only 61% and 57%, respectively. By logistic regression, the probability of a dilated eye examination among persons with NIDDM increased with older age, higher socioeconomic status, and having attended a diabetes education class. The probability of a dilated eye examination was not independently related to race, duration of diabetes, frequency of physician visits for diabetes, or health insurance.
Conclusions: About half of adults with diabetes in the United States are not receiving timely and recommended eye care to detect and treat retinopathy. Widespread interventions, including patient and professional education, are needed to ensure that diabetic patients who are not receiving appropriate eye care have an annual dilated eye examination to detect retinopathy and prevent vision loss.