(The Daily Dish) This month is Healthy Vision Month – and if your eyes feel healthy, it’s easy to assume they are healthy. According to the CDC, due to our aging population, the number of blind and visually impaired people in the United States is estimated to double by 2030 and triple by 2050.

Encouraging people to take care of their vision health as part of their overall health and wellness could significantly reduce the number and improve their quality of life. Often that encouragement starts with your primary care providers.

Dr. Steven Richardson, a primary family physician with Optum Primary Care is here to share Optum’s insights on Healthy Vision.

One of the important screens Optum does as part of their Wellness Checks is a simple eye exam that takes a high resolution of your eye with a device called RetinaVue.

The RetinaVue digital camera is a simple eye exam that takes a high-resolution photograph of your eyes so that a retinal specialist can inspect the image for damage to the retina and blood vessels. This is a non-invasive exam that takes approximately 5 minutes of your time. No eye dilation is necessary, so you won’t have to wait to drive, or arrange a ride after your appointment.

Dr. Richardson is talking about a diabetic retinal eye exam. Diabetic retinopathy can lead to other serious eye conditions, like retinal detachment, which is caused when scar tissue causes the retina to pull away from the back of the eye. Diabetic retinopathy can also cause Neovascular glaucoma; when abnormal blood vessels grow out of the retina and block fluid from draining out of the eye.

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy usually don’t have any symptoms. Some people notice changes in their vision, like trouble reading or seeing faraway objects. These changes may come and go. In later stages of the disease, blood vessels in the retina start to bleed into the vitreous (gel-like fluid in the center of the eye). If this happens, you may see dark, floating spots or streaks that look like cobwebs. Sometimes, the spots clear up on their own — but it’s important to get treatment right away. Without treatment, the bleeding can happen again, get worse, or cause scarring.

Anyone with any kind of diabetes can get diabetic retinopathy — including people with type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Your risk increases the longer you have diabetes. More than 2 in 5 Americans with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy. The good news is that you can lower your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by controlling your diabetes. 

Women with diabetes who become pregnant — or women who develop gestational diabetes — are at high risk for getting diabetic retinopathy. If you have diabetes and are pregnant, have a comprehensive dilated eye exam as soon as possible. Ask your doctor if you’ll need additional eye exams during your pregnancy.

Ways to keep vision health:

  1. Get regular eye exams
  2. Eat a healthy diet, including leafy greens such as spinach or kale, and maintain a healthy weight
  3. Know your family’s eye health history.
  4. Wear sunglasses that block out 99% to 100% UV-A and UV-B radiation
  5. Quit smoking or don’t start.

For more information or to find out where you can schedule an appointment, visit the Optum website or call (866) 637-5268.

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