Newswise — CHICAGO (September 1, 2022) – Whether volunteering for a favorite cause, traveling for pleasure, or having more time to spend with family, for many Americans getting older means having time to focus on the people and things they enjoy most. Unfortunately, aging can also bring an increased risk of developing health conditions ranging from cardiovascular disease to arthritis, as well as retinal diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy. Thankfully, there are simple steps older Americans can take to protect their vision, safeguard their quality of life, and ensure they have access to the care they need if they are diagnosed with a retinal condition.
During September’s Healthy Aging Month, the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS) and its members encourage older Americans, their friends and family to learn the facts about retinal conditions that can steal sight as people age. Knowing the signs and symptoms of retinal diseases, incorporating healthy retina habits, and confirming that expert retina specialist care and advanced treatments are available without delay through insurance plans can help protect and preserve vision.
“Take a few minutes to learn the symptoms and risk factors associated with retinal disease and share that information with friends. Spreading the word really can make a difference,” said ASRS President Philip J. Ferrone, MD, FASRS. “For example, seeing an occasional floater in your vision happens to all of us as we age, but any sudden onset of floaters or increase in the number of floaters means you should see a retina specialist right away. Also, if you have a retinal condition and are making changes to your insurance, confirm that your new plan includes access to a retina specialist and the treatments you would need to preserve your sight.”
Consider these 4 simple actions to protect vision:
Learn the signs and symptoms of common adult retinal conditions. AMD affects 11 million Americans and is the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans. Another retinal condition, diabetic retinopathy, is the leading cause of blindness in U.S. working-age adults. The condition affects 7.7 million Americans, which is expected to double by 2050.
Hallmark symptoms of AMD include distortion (warping) of straight lines; a decrease in the intensity or brightness of colors; a gradual or sudden loss of central vision; and dark, blurry areas in the center of vision.
Diabetic retinopathy symptoms to watch for include blurry central vision, seeing spots, floaters, or a shadow across the field of vision, difficulty reading, eye pressure, and difficulty with color perception.
Know your family history and other retinal disease risk factors. Ask family members if they have had vision issues. Retinal conditions including AMD, diabetic retinopathy, and even retinal detachments may have a genetic component that runs in families. Other common risk factors of retinal disease include older age, smoking, and high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Make healthy retina habits a priority. People of all ages can maintain healthy retinas and reduce the risk of developing retinal conditions by:
- Quitting smoking
- Staying active
- Controlling blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol
- Eating nutritious food including dark, leafy greens and fish
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Getting regular dilated retina exams
Do your homework before signing up for or switching health insurance plans. During open enrollment, October 15, 2022, through December 7, 2022, Americans eligible for Medicare can join, switch or drop an Original Medicare Health Plan or Medicare Advantage Plan. Retina patients should consider several factors before signing up or switching to any plan, including:
- Do all of my doctors, hospitals, surgical centers, etc., accept my coverage?
- Are my medications covered by the plan I am considering?
- Do I travel to other parts of the country for extended periods of time? Will I be able to see a doctor in those places?
- Have I talked to my physicians and pharmacists about the plan I am considering?
- Are there out-of-pocket costs for office visits, testing, procedures, and/or drugs?
- Does my insurer create hurdles that impede my ability to receive physician-administered drugs, such as my eye injections of Eylea or Lucentis?
Consumers should also ask if an insurance plan requires preauthorization for any tests or procedures or if it requires step therapy for any medications. “Fail first” step therapy is a policy Medicare-eligible retina patients should be aware of as it can affect a patient’s ability to receive treatment recommended by their retina specialist. Fortunately, Original Medicare does not allow step therapy.
Jack, a 99-year-old World War II veteran with AMD has experienced “fail first” step therapy firsthand. Jack was still able to work, enjoy time with his grandchildren and use a computer, but his vision deteriorated significantly due to AMD. Despite his advanced age, his insurance company required step therapy and rejected the appeals of his retina specialist to administer a specific drug via eye injection to treat his AMD. For three months Jack had to “fail” on a less effective drug. His vision continued to deteriorate and he could no longer work or use the computer. Fortunately, once he “failed” on step therapy and was given the originally prescribed drug, his vision cleared and he is preparing to celebrate his 100th birthday.
For more information about maintaining retina health for good vision and to find your retina specialist visit www.SeeforaLifetime.org.
The American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS) is the largest organization of retina specialists in the world, representing more than 3,000 physicians in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 63 countries. Retina specialists are board-certified ophthalmologists who have completed fellowship training in the medical and surgical treatment of retinal diseases. The mission of the ASRS is to provide a collegial and open forum for education, to advance the understanding and treatment of vitreoretinal diseases, and to enhance the ability of its members to provide the highest quality of patient care. The mission of the Foundation of the American Society of Retina Specialists, the charitable arm of the American Society of Retina Specialists, is to improve the quality of life for all people with retinal diseases through retina health education and awareness activities and to support the education of retina specialists. Learn more at ASRS.org. Like ASRS on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and follow us on Twitter for the latest retina health information.