Diabetes and Your Vision Health

I know, and I’m friends with, people who live with diabetes. You probably know someone too. Whether you have the disease, know someone who does, or if you have friends and family who could be at risk, the following information may be good to know and good to share.

November is named and observed as Diabetes Awareness Month to bring attention to the disease and the millions of people affected by it. We’d like to join this effort from the perspective of your vision health, as your vision benefits provider.

How vision is connected

Diabetes can lead to vision problems, and it’s the leading cause of blindness, and vision impairment, among adults. What’s important to remember, and what I hope, if anything, you take away from this information is this – a comprehensive eye exam can detect diabetes early and catch early signs of eye conditions. How? By looking closely at the blood vessels in your eyes. As explained by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, “too much glucose in the blood for a long time can cause damage in many parts of the body” and this includes the small blood vessels in your eyes. Those with diabetes should have comprehensive eye exams at least every year, even if there are no signs of vision problems. Eye exams are recommended for everyone, every one to two years.

Eye conditions

The most common eye conditions associated with diabetes are cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Of those, diabetic retinopathy is the most common and the most serious.

Cataracts

If you have diabetes, your chance of developing cataracts increases by 60 percent. This condition, the clouding of the lens of your eye, is mostly associated with the aging process, but if you have diabetes, you could develop cataracts at a younger age. Cataracts can also progress faster with people who are diabetic. There are steps you can take to prevent cataracts, like wearing sunglasses often, but discuss more options with your eye doctor.

Glaucoma

Your risk of developing glaucoma increases by 40 percent if you have diabetes. Glaucoma is the result of pressure building up in the eye. If glaucoma is not treated, it can lead to blindness. There are different types of glaucoma, and it is another condition that can be detected with a comprehensive eye exam.

Diabetic retinopathy

This condition has different types and different stages. There is also a condition called diabetic macular edema (DME) that is a consequence of diabetic retinopathy. While we won’t get too technical or detailed right now, the term diabetic retinopathy refers to “disorders to the retina caused by diabetes” or when high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in your retina. It’s the most common eye condition for people with diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, the longer you have diabetes, the more likely this condition will develop. Unfortunately, the association also states that “almost everyone” with type 1 diabetes, and “most people” with type 2, will eventually have diabetic retinopathy. But, as stated before, regular eye exams and early detection are crucial with this condition.

Be aware of the signs

With diabetic retinopathy, the early symptoms might go unnoticed. If you have any of the following signs of eye problems, see your eye doctor right away.

  • Blurry vision
  • Cloudy vision
  • Double vision
  • Pain or pressure felt in one or both of your eyes
  • Dark spots

This is not a complete list of symptoms, so have a discussion with your eye doctor if any or other signs occur.

Schedule an eye exam

Talking with a primary source – your eye doctor or medical doctor – can be the most helpful and impactful in terms of your path forward. Being aware of the disease, associated eye conditions and other knowledge about your vision health can make a difference in your overall health and the health of those around you. But whether you have diabetes or not, scheduling a comprehensive eye exam is highly recommended.

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The Vision Health Benefits of Pumpkin… A Reason to Join the Pumpkin Craze

pumpkinsWhile it may seem like the pumpkin theme is everywhere right now – pumpkin spice, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin picking – we’ve got some vision health benefits of pumpkin! A new twist on the pumpkin craze!

Maybe you already knew there are great health benefits of pumpkin. I didn’t! And I’m even more thrilled to share the benefits pumpkin can have on your vision, which we, at Advantica, care about very much! So whether you’re a fan of all the pumpkin-ness going around this season, or if you’re just looking for a practical reason to love this orange squash, read on to learn about its abundance of vitamins and minerals.

Nutritious pumpkin

Adding pumpkin to your menu this season and year-round can have great results on your vision. Pumpkin is filled with eye-friendly nutrients like magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C and zinc. This Halloween season, now pumpkin can lead the way for a delicious and healthy choice instead of all the sweets and candy.

Here’s what pumpkin’s got:

Magnesium is found in pumpkin seeds. This nutrient is good for your muscles, including your eye muscles. Grab a handful of pumpkin seeds (or 1 oz.) and you’ve got 35 percent of your daily requirement.

Vitamin A – All you need is 1 cup of pumpkin to get over 200 percent of the vitamin A you need daily. That’s a powerful cup! Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for vision health. Studies have shown vitamin A helps prevent eye conditions like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It also helps protect the surface of your eyes.

Zinc is another nutrient from pumpkin that keeps your eyes healthy. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), impaired vision has been linked to zinc deficiency. Zinc can also help people with a high risk for AMD.

Vitamin C is a nutrient that helps fight infection and it supports vision health in many ways like slowing the progression of AMD and supporting blood vessels in the eye. Studies have shown vitamin C can decrease your risk of cataracts. Pumpkins have a ton of this vitamin, just one cup is 20 percent of your daily requirement.

Roast up those pumpkin seeds and find some healthy recipes (like a pumpkin smoothie) to indulge in pumpkin this season. What better reason to go pumpkin crazy than taking care of your overall health and your vision health.

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Focus on Preventive Care: The main difference between dental and medical coverage

Cavities are almost 100% preventable. Let’s say that again – cavities are preventable. That means it’s within your power to avoid tooth decay. This is a great thing to remember when you’re considering skipping your dentist visit or going to bed without two minutes of brushing. It’s also one of the reasons dental benefits and medical benefits are designed differently.

Preventive care is the focus

One of the main differences between dental and medical coverage is the focus on preventive care. While you know healthy choices can decrease your chances of getting sick, medical insurance is used when you do get sick or have an injury. With dental benefits, preventive care is the focus. If you visit the dentist for exams, cleanings and X-rays, you can stop oral health problems before they start. Visiting your dental care provider twice a year for cleanings, which is part of your dental coverage, is preventive care. To promote preventive care, many benefit plans with cover all or most of the cost of routine dental cleanings and examinations. Preventive care in addition to your dental benefits includes practicing good oral health habits like brushing twice a day and flossing. Add all this together with smart food and lifestyle choices, and you’ve got yourself a healthy smile.

To sum this up, we use medical benefits when we have a health issue, and we use our dental benefits to prevent dental issues. You can live a healthy life with exercise and a good diet, but you can still get sick. You can visit your dentist, brush your teeth and make good oral health choices and you can prevent oral health problems.

Emergencies

Another difference when comparing dental benefits and medical benefits is emergencies. Dental care emergencies are rare. Getting a tooth knocked out can require emergency care, but dental emergencies do not happen often especially compared to medical emergencies. Medical benefits reflect this difference in care, such as ER and urgent care facility coverage.

Stop problems before they begin

Dental benefits work to stop problems before they begin. If you work hard with your preventive care, like visiting the dentist routinely, that can help avoid bigger and more costly problems in the future, like cavities or gum disease. Despite the differences between medical and dental benefits, we believe oral health is a big part of your overall health. Study your dental plan to learn more about your coverage, and remember the power of prevention.

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Make Vision Count Today and Everyday

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) every year declares the second Thursday of October World Sight Day. The purpose is to bring attention and awareness to blindness and vision impairment and the theme of universal eye health. This year’s message is “Make Vision Count” and as your vision benefits provider we’re more than happy to promote this theme and the other messages of World Sight Day.

Background on the IAPB

The IAPB was established as an organization Group selfieto lead an international effort to coordinate resources for blindness prevention. The founders wanted to bring attention to the problem of global blindness. The IAPB covers all regions of the globe, and the mission is to achieve universal access to eye health. The major threats to eye health in the North American region according to the IAPB are chronic conditions such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration. Also, in Caribbean countries, a challenging issue is cataract blindness and low surgical rate. You can learn more about the IAPB and their global action plan, by visiting their website.

Statistics show the importance of making vision count

New data and projections will be released today from the Vision Loss Expert Group, as part of World Sight Day. Here are some of the facts from the IAPB website that drive their cause:

  • Approximately 285 million people worldwide live with low vision and blindness
  • 90% of blind people live in low-income countries
  • Yet 80% of visual impairment is avoidable (i.e. readily treatable or preventable)
  • Restorations of sight, and blindness prevention strategies are among the most cost-effective interventions in health care

How do we make vision count?

What does “Make Vision Count” mean to you? How do we make vision count? Today, on World Sight Day, we hope you schedule a comprehensive eye exam for you and your family. Regular eye exams are important for checking eye functions and for common eye diseases, but they can also detect other health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure. Also, we want you to practice good habits for eye health, like eating vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking. We recognize, and will always advocate for, the importance of healthy vision today and every day.

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Ask for a Pretreatment Estimate to Avoid Surprises

Dentist and patientSome of you might like surprises, but not when it comes to your dental bill. Let’s try to stop that tingly sweat from appearing on your skin when you open a bill. Asking for a pretreatment estimate can help you plan and budget and encourage a discussion with your dentist. You can avoid any unwanted surprises, while keeping a smile on your face, and keeping that smile healthy.

A recent study showed that cost is a major barrier to dental care. Cost also causes people to delay receiving dental care. Preventive care is important when it comes to your oral health because it can avoid big problems later. When you’re visiting your dentist, or calling to make an appointment, ask your dentist to submit a pretreatment estimate to your benefits provider, like Advantica. It will help you find out if the procedures are covered, if you will exceed your maximum, and how best to plan for your payment portion. Then cost can stop being a barrier between you and your dental care.

How it works

A pretreatment estimate is free. It is sometimes called a predetermination or preauthorization. This estimate will give you an approximate cost for your dental treatment. It will also tell you what you’ll need to pay out-of-pocket.

When your dental provider puts in a request for a pretreatment estimate, they also submit a treatment plan and X-rays that are relevant. This information helps Advantica make the determination. After the review of your benefits and the information sent by your dental provider, Advantica will send a response to you and your dentist’s office. This estimate will include how much the treatment will cost according to your dental plan and how much you will be expected to pay.

This estimate is based on the dental plan you have, your eligibility, your current plan benefits and the amount remaining in your annual maximum. If your case is complex, a pretreatment estimate can take longer, so consider that and plan accordingly. On cases that are not complex, an estimate should be returned quickly.

Why pretreatment estimates are helpful

Pretreatment estimates can help you set a budget and plan for your dental procedures. The estimate can also encourage a conversation between you and your dental provider to discuss the treatment and the best way to proceed. This conversation can also help you learn more about the procedure, and if there are any alternate treatments and procedures based on your dental plan. For procedures such as crowns, wisdom tooth extractions, bridges, dentures and oral surgery, which are more costly, pretreatment estimates are especially useful.

Get your preventive visits in, take care of your smile and take away any surprises when it comes to your oral health and dental bill.

 

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3 Healthy Aging Topics for Oral Health

Senior coupleWe have oral health concerns for older adults, so we have some information and tips to consider as part of healthy aging. We’ve talked about a diet filled with fruits and vegetables and improving your brushing and flossing technique, which will help your oral health in the long run. But let’s review more focused information concerning your oral health as you get older, or as your parents or loved ones get older.

Don’t retire your dental benefits when you retire from work

Most of us plan for retirement as best we can, but sometimes those plans do not include funds for dental benefits. Since most lose their employer-sponsored dental insurance when they retire and Medicare doesn’t cover dental, many older adults don’t visit the dentist. We don’t want that to happen.

According to a 2012 study, almost 70% of people age 65 and older have gum disease, and gum disease is the most common reason for tooth loss among seniors. Despite issues like cavities, in the same study, about a quarter of adults 65 and older haven’t seen the dentist in the past five years, missing valuable cleanings and oral health exams. In addition to cleaning teeth at each exam, dentists should screen for oral cancer, periodontal disease and other mouth problems that become more common in older individuals. This is why it’s important to keep those appointments.

Consider putting away money for dental benefits when you plan your retirement accounts. Also, maintain your good oral health routines like brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing daily. Whatever your plans are, make sure oral health is a part of your healthy aging.

Is your new medication also a prescription for oral health issues?

As we age, some of us may face health issues that require medication, and your prescriptions can have negative effects on your oral health. One of the most common side effects from medications is dry mouth. This condition deprives the mouth of saliva, which plays a critical role in preventing tooth decay. To help with this, drink plenty of water and limit caffeine and alcohol.

Canker sores, a metallic taste in the mouth, discolored teeth, and “gingival overgrowth” (when gums swell and start to grow over teeth) are other side effects to medication. Consult your doctor and dentist for guidance and more information. Also, it’s important to keep dentists up to date on medications, vitamins and supplements you’re taking so they can monitor your oral health for side effects. If you notice any changes in your oral health, contact your physician or dentist right away.

How to help a loved one maintain their oral health

Besides encouraging an older loved one to maintain dentist visits and the routine of brushing and flossing daily, for those with a friend or family member with dementia or Alzheimer’s, here are a few tips to consider:

  • Keep step-by-step directions for brushing and flossing near the bathroom sink.
  • Provide a toothbrush with a wider handle or an electric toothbrush with a timer so your loved one knows how long to brush.
  • Notice any discomfort or pain your family member may have during meals or while brushing or flossing teeth.
  • If your loved one is in a full-time care facility, ask how they handle dental care and dental visits.
  • As discussed above, remind your loved one to drink water throughout the day to help with dry mouth, a side effect to many medications. Dry mouth can cause plaque build-up and lead to gum disease.

Learn about other dental concerns and ways to counteract them.

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5 Healthy Aging Behaviors to Help Your Vision

Healthy aging seems to be a trending phrase. But this trend might stick around for a long time since approximately 20% of our population is going to be over 65 by 2030. That’s about 72 million people. So how are we all going to age in a healthy manner? Or, more specifically, how will we all keep our eyes healthy?

Take these five healthy actions to help with the aging of your eyes. These tips can help protect your vision, and for the 72 million of us out there who will be over 65 soon, we can try to keep our eyes as healthy as possible and set ourselves up for continued healthy vision.

Visit your vision provider annually

Because, as we age, we need to be concerned with more than just vision impairment. There are other health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers, that your vision provider can detect during a comprehensive eye exam.

The National Eye Institute states that vision loss and blindness are “not a normal part of aging” but some changes like losing focus, trouble distinguishing some colors and needing more light to see are common. But keep in mind, these vision changes “can often be corrected.” Visit your vision provider every one to two years.

Wear sunglasses

We talked about this over the summer, but we should always be aware of the damage UV rays can cause to our vision. Protecting our eyes from the sun is important for all age groups, and putting on your shades every time you step outside is a good habit to have. The long-term exposure to UV rays can increase your risk for cataracts when you get older.

Make healthy choices…

And this isn’t just eating more fruits and vegetables, although that’s a good place to start. Making healthy choices also means quitting smoking and keeping normal blood pressure and maintaining good cholesterol and glucose levels. Throw in 30 minutes of exercise daily, and your healthy choices are complete to benefit your vision health.

Eating fruits and vegetables with vitamin C and E, lutein and zeaxanthin, studies show, can lead to a lower risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Vitamins A and D, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids are also on the nutrient list to help maintain healthy vision.

Quitting smoking will also lower your risk for eye diseases like AMD and cataracts. Maintaining a healthy weight to lower your risk of developing diabetes is important because this condition can damage your eyes and potentially lead to vision loss. High blood pressure is also a condition that can damage your eyes.

Limit time in front of digital devices

Another trending term, along with healthy aging, is digital eye strain. This term, and condition, is also here to stay because we now spend so much time looking at our phones, working in front of the computer, or watching television. All this screen time can cause issues like eye dryness, eye fatigue, blurry vision and difficulty shifting focus to objects at a distance. Talk to your eye doctor if you have any of these symptoms of digital eye strain. Other steps you can take include using blue light filtering lenses and limiting your screen time by taking frequent breaks every 20 minutes for at least 20 seconds. We don’t yet know the long-term effects digital eye strain will have on the population, but develop these healthy aging habits to help prevent the symptoms.

Educate yourself

Knowing and being aware of any symptoms of vision loss will help you take the necessary step of visiting your vision provider and getting an eye exam. Look for any changes while reading, driving, or watching TV. Look for any changes with your loved ones like squinting or bumping into things.

As we get older, we’re also at a higher risk of vision loss from eye diseases and conditions like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and dry eye. Learning about these and other conditions, as well as knowing risk factors and your family history is an important part of your healthy aging process.

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