Primary Care Physicians Are Neglecting Vision

A report from the National Poll on Healthy Aging reveals that more than half of older patients surveyed said their primary care providers have not asked them about their vision. Considering the number of ailments that can affect the aging population, vision is unfortunately often overlooked. This is concerning, since the incidence of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) will likely increase as the number of senior adults grows. There is not yet a cure for the “dry” form of the disease, but the “wet” form (wherein blood vessels leak into the retinal layers) can be treated if caught early.

The survey solicited responses from 2,013 participants from ages 50 to 80 years, with the following results:

  • 58% said their primary health care provider did not ask about vision.
  • 27% said they had been diagnosed with cataracts, diabetic eye disease, glaucoma or macular degeneration.
  • 17% had they had their vision checked using an eye chart at a primary care visit.
  • 91% had an eye exam within 2 years of a PCP asking about their vision.

The researchers wrote that “Findings from this poll underscore the important role that primary care providers play in promoting eye health. People with diabetes, a history of eye disease, or lower household incomes were more likely to have had a conversation about vision with their primary care provider, suggesting that primary care providers may be more likely to discuss eye health with those known to be at high risk for eye conditions”. AMD, however, does not always show symptoms until it has progressed significantly. For that reason, every senior adult should request that at least a cursory eye exam be performed at each annual physical.

SOURCE: University of Michigan. National Poll on Healthy Aging. Accessed October 20, 2018.