NIH Press Release
National Eye Institute

Tuesday, November 11, 1997

NEI Information Office
(301) 496-5248

New Public Service Campaign Targets Needless Blindness

As many as 25,000 people with diabetes will go blind needlessly this year from diabetic eye disease, although the vision of nearly all these people-90 percent-could have been saved with timely detection and treatment.

In response to this alarming fact, the National Eye Institute (NEI), one of the Federal governmentís National Institutes of Health, is launching its first public service campaign to prevent blindness caused by diabetic eye disease. While 16 million Americans have diabetes, less than half of those diagnosed with diabetes are having annual dilated eye examinations.

"Through this campaign, we hope to prevent people with diabetes from losing their sight by encouraging them to get an annual dilated eye exam," said Dr. Carl Kupfer, NEI director. "The only way to detect the early signs of diabetic eye disease is through a dilated eye exam performed at least once a year."

This campaign, which begins during National Diabetes Month (November), features TV, radio, and print public service ads distributed nationally. The ads emphasize the theme "diabetic eye disease doesnít have to take away your sight" through the use of powerful images, such as scenes from nature and the faces of loved ones that people would surely miss seeing if their vision was lost.

"A person with diabetes can have diabetic eye disease and not even know it until it is too late to save his or her vision," said Dr. Kupfer. Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that can result from diabetes. These problems include cataract, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy-the most common type of diabetic eye disease.

The campaign is part of the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP), established more than 5 years ago by the NEI in partnership with more than 50 public and private organizations. The NEHEP goal is to reduce preventable blindness through eye health education programs targeted to high-risk audiences.

In addition to this public service campaign, the NEHEP Partnership will join forces to coordinate and conduct activities at the community level during National Diabetes Month in November. Partnership organizations will distribute educational brochures to reach Americans with the message that people with diabetes should have an annual dilated eye examination.

For a free brochure, "Donít Lose Sight of Diabetic Eye Disease," write to Diabetic Eye Disease, 2020 Vision Place, Bethesda, MD 20892-3655, or visit the NEI Web site at

The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, is the Federal governmentís lead agency for vision research, and supports between 70 percent and 80 percent of basic and applied vision research in the United States.