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Black Kids With Diabetes Less Likely to Get Eye Exams

WEDNESDAY, July 17 (HealthDay News) -- Black American children with the greatest risk for an eye disease caused by type 1 diabetes are the least likely to have received an eye exam, a new study finds.

Retinopathy is an inflammation of the retina that can lead to blindness. Researchers found that only 64 percent of eligible children were screened for the condition in the two-year study period. This, they said, was despite recommendations for yearly exams to all families.

"Children who were not screened were significantly more likely to be black or have poorer diabetes control," the authors wrote.

Sixty-six percent of white children were screened, compared with 54 percent of black children, according to the study, which was published in the July issue of the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice.

The likelihood of having a screening was not related to whether children had private or public health insurance.

"This study shows that our children who are at highest risk are not receiving the help they need," study senior author Terri Lipman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, said in a school news release. "We need to ensure that all children have access to adequate healthcare."

Type 1 diabetes, the less common type, always requires treatment with injected insulin or insulin given through a pump. Type 2 diabetes, the more common type, is associated with lifestyle choices -- such as diet and physical activity -- and being overweight is a significant risk factor.

Lipman was co-author of another study that found that children with type 2 diabetes also were at risk for retinopathy. Of more than 500 children who had type 2 diabetes for about five years, nearly 14 percent showed early signs of retinopathy.

All the children in the study were overweight or obese. There were no racial differences in terms of the risk of retinopathy. That study appeared in the June issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

"These studies bring to light the importance of screening for eye disease in all children with diabetes," Lipman said.

More information

The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about diabetic retinopathy.

SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, news release, July 2013

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