Eye Health & Chronic Conditions

Eye Health & Chronic Conditions

91% of Americans feel that the health of their eyes is as important as the health of their heart, 32% admit they do not know how to take good care of their eyes.

Eyes Are the Window to Other Serious Chronic Conditions

Eyes reveal more than just vision issues. Comprehensive eye exams can also detect diseases such as diabetes, cholesterol, hypertension and cancer, of which the first three are the most prevalent chronic conditions identified by doctors of optometry. Through comprehensive eye exams, the early detection and ongoing management of these diseases has resulted in almost $1 million in annual savings according to an analysis of a large database of multiple employers. Other costly and disabling conditions can also be identified including multiple sclerosis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, according to a study by UnitedHealthcare of 820,000 members.

Overview of Toolkit Eye Health

Common Eye Conditions

The links below include doctor-reviewed and doctor-approved information on some of the most common eye conditions that are often detected during a comprehensive eye exam:

  • Astigmatism
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Dry Eye
  • Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Cataract
  • Keratoconus
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Ocular Hypertension
  • Presbyopia

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness for people under 74 and prevalence is steadily growing. The disease is expected to affect one in 10 people worldwide by 2040. According to a 2016 American Eye-Q® Survey, 79 percent of Americans don’t know diabetic eye diseases have no visible symptoms and more than half don’t know that a comprehensive eye examination can detect diabetes. People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of at least $13,700 per year, of which about $7,900 is attributed to diabetes. On average, people with diagnosed diabetes have medical expenditures approximately 2.3 times higher than those that do not have diabetes.

U.S. doctors of optometry identified diabetes-related manifestation in 240,000 patients who were unaware of their diabetic status.

Hypertension is known as the silent killer because it causes the deaths of almost 1,000 Americans every day. Of the more than 70 million hypertension sufferers, 48% don’t know they have it until it catches them unaware. It can quietly cause damage to your body for years before you develop actual symptoms, and if it’s left untreated it can cause you to develop disabilities, lead to a poor quality of life and even a deadly heart condition. This condition increases your risk of heart attack, heart failure and sudden cardiac death. Over time, the strain on your heart caused by high blood pressure can cause your heart muscle to weaken and work less efficiently.

It is recommended that all adults have regular comprehensive dilated eye exams

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the U.S. with more than 2.7 million Americans aged 40 and over affected by the disease. It is a leading cause of irreversible blindness, yet only half of those affected know they have it. Glaucoma can’t currently be prevented, but if it is diagnosed and treated early, it can usually be controlled with prescription medication. According to a recent survey, 91% of people indicated they would visit their eye health professional if they knew glaucoma diagnosis was part of a comprehensive eye exam. Glaucoma surgery, in a conventional hospital, typically costs $11,000 or more. Laser surgery conducted in a doctor's office or ambulatory surgery center drops the cost to less than $1,000 to $2,000.

Employer impacts of chronic disease to worker productivity

The total cost of lost productivity in adults between ages 18 and 64 due to vision loss or impairment is estimated at more than $23 billion annually.

Workers with chronic conditions can impact productivity and affect employers in several ways. Complications from chronic conditions can impact an employee’s ability to perform their job, require that they go on disability, or even require that they take an early retirement, which can result in loss of income. They can also have work-related injuries or may lose their ability to work if they must perform visual screening or require strong eyesight.

Eye Health in Specific Populations

For women, a significant proportion of those with self-reported conditions did not receive the recommended follow-up eye care, including:

  • 21% of women with self-reported diabetic retinopathy
  • 12% of women with self-reported glaucoma
  • 8% of women with self-reported macular degeneration

For school-age children, 25% have vision problems – often misdiagnosed as a learning disability or ADHD.

  • Vision screenings do not accurately identify vision problems which can delay treatment and care for eye and other health problems

For Latinos, more than 60% of eye disease is undiagnosed and undetected, including:

  • 98% of age-related macular degeneration
  • 95% of diabetic retinopathy
  • 82% of glaucoma
  • 57% of cataracts
  • 19% of refractive error