May is Healthy Vision Month, according to the National Eye Institute. Since Diabetes is the number one cause of vision loss in Americans under age 65, an annual eye exam for diabetics is critical according to The Tennessean (5/9).
In an op-ed Mary Gaines, RN, director of the Diabetes Centers at Baptist Hospital and Middle Tennessee Medical Center, wrote, “It’s a safe bet that diabetes is likely the leading cause of blindness across the Volunteer State — and an important reason to call attention to Healthy Vision Month in May,”.
Gaines pointed out that May is the “time for health professionals and patients to pay particular attention to the importance of ‘eye health’ and the need for an annual dilated eye examination.” In Tennessee alone, “an estimated 21 percent of adults living with diabetes have had their eyes affected by the disease,” and as a result may suffer from glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy.
Similarly, in Georgia, many patients with diabetes are not getting an annual eye exam with retinal photography to ensure that they are safe from diabetic retinopathy, according to John L Henahan, OD, FAAO optometrist at Spectrum Eyecare in Peachtree City. “Only be having a complete medical eye exam with pupil dilation and retinal photography can your doctor ensure that you do not have diabetic retinopathy.”, continues Dr. Henahan.
In fact, many eye doctors do not even have a retinal camera, so be sure to inquire when making an appointment for your annual exam. At Spectrum Eyecare, Dr. Henahan works closely with primary care physicians to coordinate a patient’s care. “We email photos of your retina to your doctor so they can see for themselves the status of your retinal health.”
Many patients avoid seeing the eye doctor out of concern for the cost, especially if they do not have vision insurance. But according to Dr. Henahan patients with diabetes can use their medical insurance for their eye exam. “Many patients do not understand the difference between vision insurance and medical insurance. They assume anything to do with the eyes requires vision insurance, which simply is not the case. If you have a medical eye problem or diabetes, the exam and testing (such as retinal photography) can be processed through your medical insurance such as Blue Cross or Medicare.”
Early diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy is so important that Dr. Henahan works closely with his patients to ensure that they can get the needed photographs, even if they do not have medical insurance. “We don’t want anyone to lose vision because of lack of insurance, we provide discounts and other assistance to help those without insurance.” If you or a loved one has diabetes, high blood pressure or have not had an eye exam recently, contact Spectrum Eyecare to learn about preventing diabetic retinopathy and to schedule an eye exam.