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Alisa Patton, Benjamin Zhou, Isis Zhang, Catherine Ye, Bernard Szirth, Albert S Khouri; T1DM during COVID-19: A Retrospective Analysis on Access to Ophthalmology Care and Health Habits. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2021;62(8):1743.
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Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) has had immense effects on access to medical care. Loss of medical care is alarming for individuals with pre-existing conditions like Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1DM) which require uninterrupted care for best outcomes. Consistent care and medication use can reduce risk of developing diabetic retinopathy (DR) by 76% or progression by 54%. Healthy habits have also been linked to reduced risk of DR. The purpose of this study is to assess the effect of COVID-19 on care access and health habits in individuals with T1DM.
Surveys were administered from July-November of 2020 to multinational groups including the Children with Diabetes Conference (USA) and online groups, the American Diabetes Association and Connected in Motion Canadian Conference for T1DM. Data was collected from 125 patients from the USA, UK, Canada, and Bolivia. Age range was 5-81, and average years with T1DM was 17.9. The survey was online so responder rate is unclear, though response rates from previous surveys with similar groups averaged less than 10%.
While 73.6% of respondents saw an ophthalmologist within 1 year and 98.4% had medication without rationing, 40% postponed medical visits. Reasons for postponement included lack of appointments or transportation, financial issues and safety concerns. The majority (86.4%) were from the US where private insurance is prevalent, 12% were from Europe and Canada, where socialized medicine is common. Of respondents, 90.4% are willing to use telemedicine as an alternative. For most, diet remained the same (48.8%); 25.6% stated their diet was healthier and 20% stated their diet was less healthy. 16.8% had problems accessing their usual foods due to the pandemic. A majority (55.2%) reported decreased exercise with 18.4% reporting more exercise. These overall trends were consistent across countries, and gender trends remained the same as pre-COVID, with women having better lifestyle and medical care adherence.
Though patients delayed appointments, most were able to see an ophthalmologist and access medication. Physical activity levels decreased, though diets were mostly unchanged. In individuals with T1DM, disruptions in medical care and health habits can have negative long-term outcomes on overall and eye health. Telemedicine offers a promising solution for mitigating this risk.
This is a 2021 ARVO Annual Meeting abstract.
Medical Care and Health Habits
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