EyeSmart EyeCheck logoWhat is the EyeSmart™ EyeCheck program?

The goal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart EyeCheck program is to raise awareness and understanding of the impact of eye disease and visual impairment, particularly within minority populations who often times lack access to care.

Working with state ophthalmology and subspecialty societies, hospitals and eye institutes and community organizations, the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart EyeCheck will:

  • Pilot and facilitate free screenings to help identify undiagnosed visual impairment and eye disease among populations at greatest risk and with limited access to health care services (the first screening will be in July in the Los Angeles area)
  • Build and host a national inventory of community eye screenings that use the EyeCheck approach.
  • Provide referrals to eye care and bi-lingual eye health information at the screenings as well as online
  • Test and track a new screening approach for adults, using a broad-based check for functional impairment from refractive error and eye disease, rather than traditional disease-specific screenings. It will work to catch multiple diseases, where current practice generally is to test for a single disease

The initial emphasis will be on the Latino community.  Visual impairment and blindness rates are higher in Latino individuals than any other racial/ethnic group, according to the recent LALES research.

What is LALES?

  • LALES stands for Los Angeles Latino Eye Study.
  • The research from LALES, funded by the National Eye Institute, shows that Latinos have higher rates of visual impairment, blindness, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts than non-Hispanic whites
    LALES Findings:
  • Latinos develop visual impairment and blindness at the highest rate of any ethnic group in the country, when compared with estimates from other U.S. population-based studies.
  • 53 percent of individuals within the Los Angeles Latino Community have eye disease.
  • 64 percent of Los Angeles Latinos with eye disease are not aware of their condition.

Why is the LALES research so important?

  • The research from LALES shows that Latinos have higher rates of visual impairment, blindness, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts than non-Hispanic whites. Other studies have found similar issues with other minority populations and among those with limited access to health care.
  • The LALES research illustrates that eye disease and eye conditions affecting quality of life remain undetected in far too many individuals.

Why is the American Academy of Ophthalmology focusing its efforts on addressing eye disease and visual impairment among Latinos and other at-risk populations?

  • The American Academy of Ophthalmology and its partners launched EyeSmart EyeCheck to raise awareness and understanding of the impact of eye disease and visual impairment, particularly within minority populations who often times lack access to care.

Why should people care about eye disease and visual impairment?

  • Eye disease and the resulting vision loss have a significant impact on how we function in our daily lives. As an example, vision loss is associated with increased risk of falls in women and increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, and visual impairment is associated with a higher risk of social, functional and medical decline in elderly people.
  • Worsening sight can be a sign of eye disease.

When will the EyeCheck program be coming to my city?

  • The first pilot screening took place July 25, 2010 in Los Angeles.
  • EyeCheck Chicago takes place on June 11. The free vision screening will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church at 4301 W. Washington Boulevard. The event is sponsored by The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Illinois Association of Ophthalmology.
  • Several EyeCheck screenings will be scheduled throughout the year, including Ft. Worth, TX on October 1 and Florida on November 12. Please check back to find one in your area, and to get specific information about where and when these EyeCheck events will take place.

What if there is a serious eye disease or eye problem found during the screening and the patient doesn’t have health insurance?

  • An Eye M.D. (ophthalmologist) will evaluate the severity of the person’s eye condition and recommend the appropriate next treatment steps, based on the patient’s insurance coverage options. If a patient does not have insurance, he or she may be eligible for free services through EyeCare America or other local organizations.

How long does an eye disease screening take, and is it painful?

  • The screening takes less than 10 minutes, from start to finish, and is painless.

Why is it important for Latinos and other at-risk populations to get their eyes checked?

  • Many eye diseases are treatable when detected early. Visual impairment can be a sign of eye disease, although people could wrongly assume it is a result of a simple refractive error—which impacts quality of life, too. And because some diseases have no symptoms, it’s important for people to determine their risks and get screening by an ophthalmologist – an Eye M.D.
  • Whether individuals are able to get screened or not, it is important that everyone, by age 40, have a comprehensive eye exam by an Eye M.D., ophthalmologist.
  • Visit GetEyeSmart.org to learn more about common symptoms and risk factors or to find an Eye M.D. (ophthalmologist) in your area.

What are current statistics regarding visual impairment in the U.S.?

  • Currently more than 28 million Americans over age 40 suffer from the four major eye diseases–diabetic retinopathy, cataract, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration–the most common causes of severe vision loss and blindness.
  • Blindness affects more than 900,000 Americans, and nearly 3.3 million have severe vision loss.
  • By the year 2020, more than 43 million will have serious eye diseases; 1.6 million will be blind and an additional 4.8 million will suffer serious loss of vision.
  • Up to 80 percent of all blindness can be prevented by early treatment.

What are the most common eye diseases for at-risk populations?

  • The most common eye diseases for at-risk populations are cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy.
  • Cataracts are a cause of vision loss among adults 55 and older. In fact, more than half the people over age 65 have some degree of cataract development. Surgery is the only way your eye doctor can remove a cataract.
  • Glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness in the United States, affects nearly 3 million people, half of whom don’t realize they have it since there are often no warning symptoms. African Americans and Hispanics, people with diabetes, those with a family history of the disease, and people age 60 and older are at greater risk for glaucoma.
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of severe vision loss and blindness in people 50 years of age and over. About 1.7 million Americans over age 65 have been diagnosed with AMD. About 1 to 2 percent have severe vision loss.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy is caused when high blood-sugar levels from diabetes damage blood vessels in your retina, the nerve layer of nerve tissue at the back of your eye. Often there are no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy; therefore it’s important to have a comprehensive eye exam if you suffer from diabetes.

EyeCheck Information

Find an EyeCheck near you

EyeSmart™ EyeCheck information for Academy members (login required)

Partners

EyeCare America — a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology

Allergan Foundation Logo

To get involved or for more information, please send an e-mail to: eyesmart@aao.org

Referrals for care:

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