|Survey Shows Americans Lack Critical Facts about
Maintaining Eye Health|
Disparities are Greatest among Hispanics
Most Americans do not know the risks and warning signs of diseases
that could blind them if they don't seek timely detection and treatment,
according to recent findings of the Survey of Public Knowledge,
Attitudes, and Practices Related to Eye Health and Disease.
This survey was sponsored by the National Eye Institute, one of
the National Institutes of Health, and the Lions Clubs International
Seventy-one percent of respondents reported that a loss of their
eyesight would rate as a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, meaning that
it would have the greatest impact on their day-to-day life. However,
only eight percent knew that there are no early warning signs of
glaucoma, a condition that can damage the eye's optic nerve and
result in vision loss and blindness.
Fifty-one percent said that they have heard that people with diabetes
are at increased risk of developing eye disease, but only 11 percent
knew that there are usually no early warning signs. Only 16 percent
had ever heard the term "low vision," which affects
millions of Americans. Low vision is vision loss that standard
eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery cannot correct,
making everyday tasks difficult to do. Simple tasks like reading
the mail, watching TV, shopping, cooking, and writing become challenging.
Hispanic respondents 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 disease
in the last year, compared with 28 percent of Asians, 26 percent
of African-Americans, and 16 percent of Caucasians.
More than 3,000 adults were selected randomly to participate in
this national telephone survey conducted between October 2005 and
January 2006. The findings reinforce the critical need to educate
the public about common eye diseases, such as glaucoma, diabetic
eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration.
"Good eyesight is important to our quality of life and it is essential
for adults to have accurate information to help them make informed
decisions about their eye health needs," said Paul A. Sieving,
M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Eye Institute (NEI), one
of the National Institutes of Health. "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
NEI plans to use the survey results to develop ways to raise public
awareness of eye disease and the importance of early detection
and treatment. NEI also will expand its educational outreach to
In addition, NEI will increase its efforts to educate health care
providers on how to communicate with patients about ways to preserve
and protect their vision. "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," Sieving said. "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."
NEI coordinates the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP)
in partnership with a variety of public and private organizations
that conduct eye health education programs. The focus of NEHEP
is on public and professional education programs that encourage
early detection and timely treatment of glaucoma and diabetic eye
disease and the appropriate treatment for low vision.
Lions Club International Foundation developed the Lions Eye Health
Program, a community-based education program for Lions clubs, other
community organizations, and individuals to promote healthy vision
and to raise awareness of the causes of preventable vision loss.
The mission of this Program is to empower communities to save sight
through the early detection and timely treatment of glaucoma and
diabetic eye disease, encourage those at higher risk to get a dilated
eye exam, and educate those with low vision and their caregivers
about these conditions.
"Lions have long been champions of people who are blind and
visually impaired. By better educating the public on the need for
regular eye exams and timely treatment of eye diseases, we can
end preventable blindness," said Jimmy Ross, Chairperson,
For the full report, visit: http://www.nei.nih.gov/nehep/kap.
Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) is the charitable
arm of Lions Clubs International, the largest service club organization
in the world with 1.3 million members in 200 geographic areas and
countries. Through the SightFirst program, LCIF has improved eye
care services for hundreds of millions of people, distributed sight-saving
medication, built eye hospitals, and trained eye health care workers.
For more information, visit http://www.lcif.org.
The National Eye Institute (NEI) is part of the National Institutes
of Health (NIH) and is the Federal government's lead agency for
vision research that leads to sight-saving treatments and plays
a key role in reducing visual impairment and blindness. For more
information, visit the NEI Website at http://www.nei.nih.gov.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit www.nih.gov.