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Women Get Inadequate Eye Care

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Women have higher rates of vision loss than men. The Centers for Disease Control has published a report that women at risk often do not get eye health care that could preserve their vision. The main reasons for this, according to their data, are cost factors and inadequate information.

The data source was the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System telephone survey for 19 states during the period 2006 – 2008. The eye conditions studied were diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. These are major causes of vision loss and blindness. The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association provide recommendations for follow-up care for patients diagnosed with all three conditions; the American Diabetes Association also provides recommendations for diabetic retinopathy. For age-related macular degeneration, eye examinations are recommended at least once every two years. For glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, eye exams at least once per year are recommended.

A disturbing number of women over age 40 with one of these diagnoses did not see an eye doctor within the recommended period: 21% of those with diabetic retinopathy, 12% of those with glaucoma, and 8% of those with macular degeneration were overdue for an eye exam. Cost or lack of insurance coverage was the reason given by 40% to 46% of those with inadequate care. Women over age 65 were more likely to get eye exams than those in the age range 40 to 64. In addition, women who got an annual primary care check-up were more likely to get an eye exam as well.

Other reasons given for lack of eye care were:
1. No reason to go, 20% (diabetic retinopathy), 23% (glaucoma), 29% (macular degeneration)
2. Do not have / know an eye doctor, 1% to 2%
3. Too far / no transportation, 1% to 4%
4. Could not get an appointment, 3% to 5%
5. Have not thought of it, 3% to 7%
6. Other, 19% to 23%
This is astounding to me, because all these women reported a diagnosis of serious eye disease. The authors of the report suggest better patient education is needed, because anyone with these diagnoses certainly does have a reason to go for eye care.

Vision loss is much more expensive than standard eye care, so the authors suggest more resources for early treatment.


MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 21, 2010; 59(19): 588-93.

American Academy of Ophthalmology:

American Optometric Association:

American Diabetes Association:

Linda Fugate is a scientist and writer in Austin, Texas. She has a Ph.D. in Physics and an M.S. in Macromolecular Science and Engineering. Her background includes academic and industrial research in materials science. She currently writes song lyrics and health articles.

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