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Survey: Americans Unaware of Eye Risks

Most Lack Key Information About Glaucoma and Other Eye Conditions
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Blind to Eye Health

March 13, 2008 -- Most Americans in a survey were in the dark about common eye problems that could lead to blindness. That's according to newly released findings from the Survey of Public Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices Related to Eye Health and Disease.

About 3,000 adults were randomly telephoned between October 2005 and January 2006 for the survey. Seventy-one percent of people polled said losing their eyesight would have the greatest impact on their daily life, but only 8% knew that there are no early warning signs of glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a condition that can damage the eye's optic nerve, possibly leading to vision loss and blindness.

The disease is stealthy and affects some groups more than others. Glaucoma is six to eight times more common among African-Americans than among those of European ancestry. It is also the leading cause of blindness among African-Americans, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation.

Knowledge Gap About Eye Health

Hispanics reported the lowest access to eye health information, knew the least about eye health, and were the least likely to have their eyes examined among all racial/ethnic groups participating in the survey.

Forty-one percent of Hispanics reported that they had not seen or heard anything about eye health or eye disease in the last year, compared with 28% of Asians, 26% of African-Americans, and 16% of whites. 

"These survey results will help us identify specific ways in which we can close the gap in knowledge about eye diseases and address the disparities that exist," says Director of the National Eye Institute Paul A. Sieving, MD, in a news release.

Fifty-one percent of respondents knew that people with diabetes have a greater risk of getting eye disease, but only 11% knew that there are usually no early warning signs.

Educating the Medical Community

"The survey shows us that nearly one quarter of Americans have not seen or heard anything about eye health or disease, and yet more than 90 percent have seen a health care provider," says Sieving in a news release. "We need to educate these doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals with the tools they need to educate their patients on how to better maintain their eye health." 

The survey was sponsored by the National Eye Institute (part of the NIH) and the Lions Clubs International Foundation.

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