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What's Your Diabetes Eye-Q? The Value of the Vision Benefit

Diabetes is one of the world's most common, chronic diseases – and one of the most costly for employers, leading to high treatment costs and lost productivity in the workforce. In fact, diabetes alone cost an estimated $116 billion in excess medical expenditures and $58 billion in reduced productivity in 2007 (American Diabetes Association).

Did you know you can help your employees better manage their diabetes – and improve your bottom line – simply by providing a comprehensive vision benefit?

In addition to taking a serious toll on a person's overall health, diabetes is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness. A routine eye exam can help provide early detection of diabetes for your employees – so they can make healthier lifestyle choices and prevent the onset of diabetes-related conditions. A vision benefit can also give your employees access to sight-enhancing vision wear options that can protect their eyes and help them see and perform their best at work.

Diabetes and the Eye

Are you offering your employees a vision plan that covers an annual eye exam?

Regular, comprehensive eye exams can play an important role in detecting many serious systemic diseases, like diabetes. In fact, because blurred vision is one of the first symptoms of diabetes and signs of diabetes are visible from changes seen in the back of the eye, the eye doctor is often the first health professional to detect the disease.

Most people are aware that diabetes can have serious health consequences – but many are unaware that it can also contribute to sight-stealing eye diseases including:

  • Diabetic retinopathy – caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina, leading to problems ranging from blurred vision to complete vision loss.
  • Cataract – a clouding of the eye's lens, which can occur earlier in people with diabetes.
  • Glaucoma – increased fluid pressure in the eye leading to optic nerve damage. People with diabetes are twice as likely to get glaucoma (National Eye Institute).
  • Age-related macular degeneration – a disease that gradually destroys sharp, central vision.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye disease – experienced by almost everyone with diabetes. Without proper treatment, it can lead to complete blindness. There are often no symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, so regular eye exams are critical in minimizing vision loss.

Fortunately, early detection and treatment can help prevent more than 90 percent of severe vision loss and blindness caused by diabetes (WHO).

Vision Wear Needs of Diabetics

People with diabetes may experience several visual problems, including:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Decreased contrast sensitivity, which makes it more difficult to see objects clearly
  • Increased susceptibility to glare, which can lead to headaches, eyestrain and fatigue
  • Trouble seeing at night, especially while driving

Many of these issues can be a burden to your employees at work – leading to decreased productivity, or even missed time out of work for physical ailments caused by visual problems.

Additionally, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, or sunlight, may make the eyes more prone to damage from diabetic retinopathy – and having diabetic retinopathy may increase the chance of damage from UV. For this reason, UV protection is critical for diabetics.

Fortunately, many of today's advanced eyewear options available through a vision benefit offer this protection – while providing clearer, more comfortable vision by reducing glare and adapting to changing lighting conditions.

Photochromic lenses, like Transitions® lenses, are clear indoors and at night, but darken outdoors depending on the intensity of UV rays – making it more comfortable to see in bright sunlight. They also block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays, protecting the eyes from long-term damage.

Photochromic lenses are also available with anti-reflective coatings – which further enhance vision by reducing glare (or reflections off of surfaces such as computer screens or the lens itself) to enhance contrast, minimize eyestrain and fatigue and make it easier to see while driving at night.

Look for vision plans that offer coverage of sight-enhancing eyewear options, like photochromic lenses and anti-reflective coatings, so your employees can see their best and protect their eye health for the future.

Diabetes and Kids

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in school-aged children. In fact, more than 176,000 Americans under the age of 20 have diabetes (National Institutes of Health).

One risk factor for diabetes is obesity – a condition increasing among today's children and teens. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of today's youth are overweight (National Institutes of Health), putting them at heightened risk for developing diabetes. Left untreated, it can lead to heart disease, kidney failure and circulatory problems.

Children with diabetes are at risk for diabetic retinopathy. Studies show that the disease may progress especially quickly in children – and without proper treatment, it can lead to severe vision loss or blindness at an earlier age.

Similar to adults, kids with diabetes may experience light sensitivity and be especially susceptible to damage from UV rays. This damage accumulates over time and cannot be reversed.

To prevent and minimize damage associated with diabetes, parents should talk to their children about the importance of proper eye care and UV protection – and schedule regular, comprehensive eye exams for early detection and treatment.

Make sure your employees with children are aware of your vision coverage for families. Some plans even offer extra levels of coverage for children, including discounts on UV- and glare-blocking eyewear, important for all kids, and especially those with diabetes.

High Risk Employee Groups

Did you know there may be specific groups within your workforce who are at higher risk for diabetes?

African Americans (Livingston)

  • Diabetes affects 2.2 million African Americans, and prevalence is 70 percent higher than in whites
  • Diabetes-related complications are more likely to develop and become life-threatening among African Americans

Asian Americans (Ohio State Medical Center)

  • Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death among Asian Americans 45-64
  • Since Asian Americans are less likely to be obese, doctors are often late in diagnosing diabetes

Hispanics (CDC)

  • Diabetes affects 10 percent of Hispanics – which is three times the rate of the general population
  • 95 percent of Hispanics with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, which is mostly preventable

For educational resources to share with your employees about the importance of regular vision care and sight-enhancing vision wear options available through their vision benefit to prevent and minimize damage from diseases such as diabetes, visit the HR Professionals section at

If you're interested in sharing this material with your employees, just copy and paste the following text and link into an e-mail.

Nearly 25 percent of all people with diabetes don’t know they have it. Did you know that a simple eye exam can help provide early detection of diabetes – helping you prevent long-term damage to your body and eyes?

Click on the link below to read a newsletter about the impact of diabetes, and how the latest vision care and vision wear technology offered through your vision benefit can help preserve your eye health – and your overall health – for the future.