Multi-Year Initiative Provides Education and Resources to Optometrists on the Front Lines of Diabetes Detection and Care

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ST. LOUIS, Mo.—Diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss for Americans under the age of 74, according to the American Optometric Association, and optometrists perform the majority of comprehensive, dilated eye examinations for people with diabetes in the United States and are well versed in the treatment and management of diabetic eye disease. Because ODs are on the front lines of this disease that afflicts 27 million people in the U.S. (plus the 79 million more with pre-diabetes), medical technology company, Optos, sponsored a formal multi-year diabetes initiative focused on providing clinical education and resources to AOA members.
 
The overall goal was to make optometrists aware that they are essential health care providers for patients with diabetes related to their visual and retinal health. As part of the initiative, a “Diabetes Summit” held earlier this year at Optometry’s Meeting 2013 in San Diego, Calif., has been turned into a published supplement— “Optometrists Form Front Line in Battling Diabetes.”
 
AOA and Optos collaborated on this resource to help optometrists increase patient awareness about the condition, facilitate early detection, and assist in disease management and treatment. In the supplement, Diabetes Summit panelists discuss topics including in-office testing for hemoglobin levels, the need for dilated exams and clear communication, how optometrists can better educate patients about their condition and more.
 
Participating panelists were A. Paul Chous, MA, OD, FAAO; Jeffry D. Gerson, OD, FAAO; Tina MacDonald, OD, FAAO, CDE; Joseph J. Pizzimenti, OD, FAAO; and Leo Semes, OD, FAAO.
 
“It’s really important for patients and other providers to know that we’re having a real impact on their overall diabetes management by providing education about the fundamentals of good diabetes self-care,” said MacDonald, OD, director of the Diabetes and Vision Loss Program at The Center for the Partially Sighted in Culver City, Calif.
 
In some cases, optometrists are more than just part of a care team. Sometimes, they’re the first practitioners to diagnose the disease in a patient. “I find people with retinopathy but no previously documented medical problems,” said Gerson, of West Glen Eyecare in Shawnee, Kan. “You have to make sure that the person goes and gets tested, or you do the testing in your office and make sure they receive appropriate care. It’s important to realize that we’re not always just part of the diabetes care team, there to assess eye health after a diagnosis has already been made. Sometimes, we’re the quarterback because we’re the first member of their diabetes care team.”