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Diabetes Sight

By David Mendosa

Last Update: March 1, 2005

Prevent Blindness America has been dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight since it began in 1908. But this group, the nation's leading volunteer eye health and safety organization, hadn't focused on diabetes until recently.

“We get our annual eye exams.”

The organization began reaching out to people with diabetes and their health care providers in November. That's when it created a new Web site, Diabetes-Sight about diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy is progressive damage to the eye's retina caused by long-term diabetes. It can result in loss of vision and is the leading cause of blindness in working age Americans.

"Diabetes-sight is unique, because there is nothing like it," says Dan Garrett, vice president of marketing and public affairs for Prevent Blindness America headquartered in Schaumburg, Illinois. "There is nothing else specifically focused on diabetic retinopathy with two unique avenues:

  1. There is information and resources for patients, and

  2. Information and resources for health care professionals.

It is not a broad brush diabetes site. We created it specifically for diabetic retinopathy."

I asked Dan whether the patient or health care professional side of the site got more visitors. "The patient side is well hit," he replied. "The health care side has not been as well hit, only because we've been more successful and more of our efforts have been to reach out to the patients. We are a patient advocate group. However, we are working with providers—the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association, the two largest groups to represent the eye care profession."

What are the most popular and best pages? "The most popular page is What It's Like To Have Diabetic Retinopathy - Vision Simulation". This is a simulation that shows you what your sight would look like if you had diabetic retinopathy and your vision started to fail you. That's really popular, and neck and neck with that is Inside The Eye - A Tour of The Eye's Anatomy.

The best part of the site is the vision simulation, Dan says. "The premise is that we want people with diabetes to have an annual eye exam. The vision simulation will make them more cognizant of that need. In reality less than half of the people with diagnosed diabetes have an annual eye exam."

That statistic shocked me. I was especially surprised because the American Diabetes Association has long insisted in its Position Statement on Diabetic Retinopathy that both type 1 and type 2 patients with diabetes should be examined "annually by an ophthalmologist or optometrist who is knowledgeable and experienced in diagnosing the presence of diabetic retinopathy and is aware of its management." I make sure that we get our annual eye exams.

Diabetes-sight is about diabetic retinopathy. But what about other eye conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, and wet and dry macular degeneration? While there may be an increased risk of these conditions among people with diabetes, the risk is not as pronounced as for diabetic retinopathy, Dan says. For lots of information on those conditions he suggests that you visit the Prevent Blindness America site.

I told Dan that I was surprised that Diabetes-Sight did not use large type fonts. That's because they are preventionists, Dan replied. "We are assuming that your eyes are healthy."

Dan wants to get to you before you have eye problems. So do I. 

The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.

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