August 22, 1994

Undetected Eye Disease in a Primary Care Clinic Population

Author Affiliations

From the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research (Drs Wang, Ford, and Whelton) and the Dana Center for Preventive Ophthalmology (Drs Wang, Tielsch, and Quigley), The Johns Hopkins University Schools of Hygiene and Public Health and Medicine, Baltimore, Md.

Arch Intern Med. 1994;154(16):1821-1828. doi:10.1001/archinte.1994.00420160054007

Background:  Population-based data have indicated that a significant proportion of persons with undiagnosed ocular disease in the community are regular users of general medical services. This, combined with the high prevalence of chronic medical disorders known to be risk factors for ocular disease in such clinics, makes them an attractive site for screening.

Methods:  The prevalence of ocular disease was estimated in a sample of 405 general medicine patients attending an adult primary care clinic in an urban teaching hospital.

Results:  Overall, 205 (50.6%) of 405 patients were found to have clinically important ocular pathology. One third of those affected (n=68) were unaware of their eye disease, and 26% (n=18) of these 68 patients required immediate medical or surgical intervention. Patients 65 years or older (odds ratio [OR], 1.76), in fair or poor general health (OR, 1.78), with diabetes mellitus (OR, 2.07), or with self-reported fair or poor vision (OR, 3.03), were at increased risk for the presence of ocular disease. Among patients with eye disease, those who had no insurance coverage for eye care (OR, 3.45), those who had not had an eye examination during the previous 2 years (OR, 4.03), and those whose last eye examination was performed by an optometrist (OR, 7.25, reference ophthalmologist) were more likely to not be aware of their eye disease.

Conclusions:  Our results underscore the importance of screening for ocular disease in primary health care settings, especially for patients who are older than 65 years, are in poor health, report poor vision, have had infrequent eye examinations, or have inadequate insurance coverage for eye care.(Arch Intern Med. 1994;154:1821-1828)