Diabetic Retinopathy: Why Are Some Patients Not Being Examined?

May 2, 2018 Jeanette Stern

Retinal examinations are critical for identifying diabetic retinopathy and implementing timely treatment before one loses a significant amount of vision. Consistent retinal examinations and diabetic eye screenings are important parts of diabetes care, but some diabetic patients never attend their appointments. Unfortunately, failure to attend eye clinics for screenings continues to be a top factor for imperfect visual results from diabetic retinopathy. 

Eye screening is a way of diagnosing the condition in advance before changes to vision occur. If diabetic retinopathy is found early enough, the treatment you receive will be able to stop it from getting worse and causing significant damage. Despite many patients being invited to attend screenings, health projects, and other examinations, many of them do not attend. There are various reasons why patients likely fail to attend, including the following:

  • Apprehension about the examination and the procedure that may follow


  • Not receiving enough care for their diabetes and/or not being as involved and engaged in their diabetes care


  • Not being aware he/she is diabetic or not believing the diagnosis was true


  • Not realizing that a diabetic eye screening is not the same as the standard eye test they receive from their eye doctor


  • Prior commitments and priorities, including working and taking care of their family, illnesses


  • Not being aware of the location of the screening clinic


  • Seeking eye treatment for other eye treatment and believing that was the only treatment they needed

Even though many patients are well-aware that diabetes can impact their eyes, many are still not aware that diabetes could lead to serious vision problems. Many patients are also not aware that diabetic retinopathy's symptoms would be experienced after it had already advanced, and that receiving treatment would be most successful if it was received before the symptoms began. 

Some patients who fail to show up for their screening appointments are afraid of what the results will be and they do not want to know how bad their diabetic retinopathy is. Some patients will develop some retinopathy after being diagnosed with diabetes for twenty years or more. Unfortunately, this can be unavoidable for many patients regardless of how well they have controlled their blood sugar. Despite retinopathy being inevitable for some diabetic patients, many of them will feel some form of shame or guilt because they have been given a diabetic retinopathy diagnosis. 

There are several complex reasons why some patients fail to attend at least one retinal eye screening. How can this information be used to improve the attendance of eye screenings for diabetic patients?

  • Make adjustments to patient education materials that will include information that will reduce confusion and anxiety


  • Increase the level of support for the patients who are more complex than others, including offering materials and programs that will give them better opportunities to successfully manage their conditions


  • Offer more opportunities for patients to attend so they can find the time that is convenient for them

It is important that the communication between screening services, patients, and primary care providers is improved. Improvements in communication can also be the key to addressing the anxiety and misunderstandings that many patients have about screenings. 

Diabetic retinopathy in many people will not result in symptoms. This means you will not know if you have it unless you receive an examination to the back of your eyes. If you do not attend diabetic eye screenings or appointments at your eye clinic, diabetic retinopathy can become very severe and your entire vision will be affected.

When patients show up for their screenings, it is important that they receive an experience that is efficient, beneficial, painless, and helpful. There are multiple barriers that we can all overcome when communication exists and when the knowledge is passed down. For more information on diabetic retinopathy. please do not hesitate to contact us today.

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