As we kick off the new year and think about meaningful resolutions, you may be considering healthy habits that support your holistic wellness, as well as that of your loved ones. For example, you may want to make a resolution to follow through with scheduling your annual physical, but that isn’t the only routine care you should be including in your 2022 health resolutions. Visiting your eye care professional is also an important task to include in your new year to dos.
Receiving a routine eye exam enables your care professionals to not only detect vision issues, but also diagnose more than 30 chronic illnesses, including diabetes, before other systemic symptoms arise. In fact, the American Diabetes Association reports that 26.8% of American adults 65 years and older have diabetes, putting them at risk for developing glaucoma, cataracts and the most common diabetic eye disease, retinopathy.
Routine and dilated eye exams are an integral part of assessing overall health and wellbeing—especially if you hold a high risk of developing diabetes. Receiving a simple eye exam—and learning how to spot the warning signs—puts you on a proactive path to treating diseases before they progress.
How does diabetes affect the eye? What are the most common eye diseases associated with diabetes?
Diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels that maintain the retina—a thin piece of light-sensitive tissue on the back wall of the eye. Diabetes can cause glaucoma, cataracts and multiple types of retinopathy, including:
In early stages, diabetic retinopathy has very few or even no warning signs. However, as the condition progresses, key indicators such as blurred vision, loss of peripheral vision, dark spots in vision, difficulty seeing well at night, impaired color vision or seeing spots or floaters, can develop. That’s why it’s important to receive early intervention with the help of an eye care professional, who can identify issues long before they impact your quality of life.
The financial impact of diabetic retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy can be an incredibly costly disease. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that diabetes-related blindness costs can total more than $500 million per year. Further, nearly 30% of diabetics suffer from diabetic retinopathy and those patients have significantly higher medical costs than patients with other diabetes-related conditions.
Fortunately, diabetic retinopathy happens to be one of the most preventable causes of visual impairment. A routine eye exam can diagnose diabetes before the disease becomes unmanageable.
This allows for prompt intervention at lower costs, as opposed to high medical costs down the line that are necessary due to advanced disease progression. Further, a specific type of eye exam—an annual diabetic retinal exam—is the least expensive and most impactful method of tracking the progression of diabetes, providing clarity on the status of the disease without draining your bank account.
Additionally, choosing a health plan that prioritizes your health and overall wellbeing is essential in preventing vision loss and lowering the cost of treatment. For example, at Versant Health our medical management policy supports patients from pre-diagnosis through treatment. This is possible because we draw on the collective experience of our eye care professional network, diabetic outreach program and medical management team to develop and share helpful insights into the management of diabetic eye disease. This type of integrated health plan ensures that no patient slips through the cracks, protecting your vision and saving you money.
Diabetes can affect your health, vision and wallet in a multitude of ways. This year, encourage your loved ones—and yourself—to take the time to visit your eye doctor. Receiving a routine eye exam is the best way to prevent and keep track of diabetes-related eye diseases—and protect the vision that supports the wonders of sight in your daily life.
Mark Ruchman, MD, is the chief medical officer at Versant Health. Dr. Ruchman provides all medical and clinical oversight, which includes quality improvement, clinical guidelines and accreditation standards.