Diabetes-related ophthalmic complications are the leading cause of newly diagnosed blindness among adults. These eye complications are often asymptomatic in the early stages, yet the majority of diabetes patients are not screened yearly. To develop a health promotion intervention to increase the rate of screening for diabetic retinopathy by dilated fundus exam (DFE), we assessed the knowledge and health beliefs related to preventing diabetic eye complications among a sample of African-Americans with diabetes. The study design was cross-sectional, using: a telephone interview to collect data. From a random sample of 104 African-Americans with diabetes, 67 (64%) were completed: 54 women; mean age of 58 years. The telephone interview schedule contained items grouped into subscales for Perceived Incentives, Perceived Barriers to getting a DFE. Causes of Eye Problems, Risk of Eye Problems, and Effective Treatments for Eye Problems. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the quantitative data. Transcribed qualitative responses to the open-ended questions were analyzed for themes. The incentives 'having eye problems' and 'doctor said it was important to go' each had 91% responding it was an incentive to go for a DFE. Only about one-third agreed that any particular item was a barrier to receiving a DFE (e.g., economic factors). In the subscale for Risk of Eye Problems, 'retinopathy' had the lowest level of perceived risk (30%). Only 21% of the sample reported there were effective treatments for retinopathy. Eighty-seven percent reported the faulty belief that 'diabetic eye problems have symptoms.' Only 36% of the sample said they had heard of retinopathy and of those, only 8% could describe it correctly. Among general response themes were: fear, spirituality (faith and hope), priorities, economic or logistical factors, and external/internal motivation. Perceived incentives for receiving a DFE were acknowledged at far greater rates than perceived barriers. Having a yearly DFE in the absence of symptoms must be emphasized in health promotion materials. There are effective, early treatments for diabetic eye problems, and this information should be used to counter the fear of a dreaded diagnosis with the hope of treatment and cure. Ways of coping with fear of having the exam should be included in health education. DFEs must become a routine yearly exam and not just a reaction to recognized problems. Health education must address the specific needs of high-risk minority populations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism