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November is Diabetes Awareness Month

EyeCare America Provides Free Dilated Eye Exams During Diabetes Awareness Month in November

Dilated Eye Exams Help Protect Seniors with Diabetes from Vision Loss

November 3, 2008 (San Francisco, CA) Diabetes continues to be a growing epidemic in the United States.  Currently, an estimated 17.9 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes.  However, another 5.7 million people are unaware they even have the disease and 57 million people are at risk of getting the disease.

What many of these individuals may not know is that all people with diabetes – both type 1 and type 2 – are at risk for getting diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of vision loss among adults in the United States.  In fact, people with diabetes are 25 times more likely to lose their vision than those without the disease. In addition, the longer a person has diabetes, the more likely it is for him or her to have diabetic retinopathy. Between 40 to 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some form of diabetic retinopathy.

In honor of Diabetes Awareness Month this November, EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, encourages people age 65 and older to take advantage of its Diabetes EyeCare Program. This year-round program offers dilated eye exams and up to one year of care at no out-of-pocket cost to qualified patients.  To see if you, a loved one or a friend, is eligible to receive a referral to one of EyeCare America's 7,000 volunteer ophthalmologists, call 1-800-272-EYES (3937). EyeCare America’s help lines are open 24 hours a day, every day, year round.

“Diabetes causes up to 24,000 new cases of vision loss each year,” said C. Pat Wilkinson, MD, ophthalmologist and chairman of EyeCare America’s Diabetes EyeCare Program.  “What people don’t know is that early detection, timely treatment and appropriate follow-up care can reduce their risk of blindness by 95 percent even for people with established and significant diabetic retinopathy.”

Diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy usually has no warning signs. Over time, however, the vision blurs and everyday tasks become more difficult. Vision loss cannot usually be regained.

EyeCare America's Diabetes EyeCare Program is designed for people who:

·         Are age 65 and older

·         Are U.S. citizens or legal residents

·         Have not seen an ophthalmologist in three or more years

·         Do not have insurance through an HMO or the VA

People eligible for a referral through the program receive a comprehensive, medical eye exam and up to one year of care at no out-of-pocket cost for any disease diagnosed during the initial exam. Volunteer ophthalmologists accept Medicare and/or other insurance reimbursement as payment in full. Individuals without insurance are seen at no charge.

For a Diabetes EyeCare Program referral, those interested may call 1.800.272.EYES (3937) toll-free, 24 hours a day, every day, year round.
 

About EyeCare America

Founded in 1985, EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, is committed to the preservation of sight, accomplishing its mission through public service and education. EyeCare America's public service programs provide eye care services to the medically underserved and for those at increased risk for eye disease through its corps of 7,000 volunteer ophthalmologists dedicated to serving their communities.  More than 90 percent of the care made available is provided with no out-of-pocket cost to the patients. Public service includes programs for seniors, glaucoma, diabetes, AMD and children, and is the largest program of its kind in American medicine. Since its inception, EyeCare America has helped more than 1 million people. More information can be found at: www.eyecareamerica.org

Media Contact: Allison Neves, Director of EyeCare America Communications, 415.561.8518, aneves@aao.org

NOTE TO EDITORS AND PRODUCERS: High-resolution images available in the EyeCare America Press Room at www.eyecareamerica.org  B-roll as well as interviews with EyeCare America spokespeople available upon request.

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