VSP Vision Care Finds New Link Between Eye Condition and Diabetes

Rancho Cordova, Calif., July 14, 2009 – A recent study conducted by VSP® Vision Care and the Columbus Research Foundation (CRF) showed that 98 percent of study participants who had a grayish-white ring around the cornea, an eye condition called corneal arcus, also had metabolic issues related to diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol which can lead to cardiovascular disease.
 
"This study demonstrates how important innovative approaches to healthcare are, and how comprehensive eye exams should be used as a screening for prevalent metabolic conditions," noted Dr. Steven Leichter, Medical Director of CRF.  “Greater partnership between relevant healthcare providers may enhance the efficiency of our healthcare system and, in the end, reduce healthcare costs."

The study conducted in partnership with the CRF between April and September, 2008 with 2,000 patients, aimed to show the benefits of early detection through eye exams in overall health. In addition to an eye exam, VSP eye doctors screened patients for other health risks and referred at-risk patients to the CRF for diagnosis and additional testing.

“When you take into consideration that only 21 percent of adults receive a preventive health exam annually, while 61 percent of American adults with vision coverage receive annual eye exams, vision care plays a crucial role in the early detection of chronic diseases,” said Susan Egbert, Director of Utilization and Quality Management, VSP Vision Care.

Until now, health professionals have assumed that the occurrence of arcus is related to high cholesterol. However, this study shows there is a newly discovered and even stronger relationship between arcus and high fasting blood sugar that needs to be explored further.  In fact, follow-up testing for patients who had arcus showed that:
  • Eighty-eight percent had high fasting blood sugar.
  • Forty-five percent had an elevated hemoglobin A1c.
  • Sixty-six percent had an elevated body mass index.
  • Sixty-four percent had high blood pressure.
  • Twenty-one percent had elevated LDL cholesterol. 
“Through this collaborative study, VSP Vision Care has found a breakthrough that will improve the lives of millions of Americans by connecting eye diagnostics with overall health, showing the numerous benefits of eye exams and early disease detection,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, founder of the Center for Health Transformation (CHT). Gingrich and the CHT facilitated the partnership between VSP and the CRF through their Georgia Project.
 
In addition, at-risk patients with a vision related concern who were referred to the CRF kept their appointments 100 percent of the time. At-risk patients, who had no vision related issues, only kept their appointments 54 percent of the time. This study reaffirms that vision is a strong motivator for patients to seek additional health screenings and medical care to better manage their chronic conditions.
 
About the Study
In 2008, VSP Vision Care and eleven private practice VSP optometrists provided free comprehensive eye exams and glasses to Columbus, Georgia residents.  Patients were screened for other health risks by measurements of blood pressure, BMI, and a health inventory for metabolic and cardiovascular risk using criteria developed by the CRF. Patients identified to be at-risk received free health screenings including hemoglobin A1c, fasting blood sugar, and fasting lipids from the CRF. In total 2,000 patients presented for eye exams, 973 were referred for metabolic screening of which 617 completed the screening. Patient privacy was maintained throughout the process.
 
About Columbus Research Foundation (CRF)
The Columbus Research Foundation was formed in 1995 to provide increased focus on the advancement of clinical care in the Western Georgia-Eastern Alabama area.  Since there is no medical school in the area, the activity of this Foundation is intended to provide the development of advanced care concepts and modalities for the geographic area, and the introduction of non-promotional advanced educational concepts for health professionals in the area.  The Foundation also sponsors charitable patient education and enrichment activities.  Through its support, the Foundation specifically sponsors a community-wide support group for parents of children with diabetes, a non-profit program of patient education in various disease states, and participation in the national TrialNet Program of the National Institutes of Health for the long-term observation of the families of children with type 1 diabetes.
 
About VSP Global
VSP GlobalSM is composed of a complementary group of leading companies, all working together to meet and exceed today’s eyecare professionals’ business needs. The companies include VSP® Vision Care, the largest not-for-profit vision benefits and services company in the United States; Marchon® and Altair®, cutting-edge manufacturers, designers, and distributors of quality fashion and technologically advanced sunwear and eyewear; Eye Designs, a leader in the design of custom interiors and merchandising systems for the optical industry; Eyefinity®OfficeMate®, innovative e-commerce and practice management solutions, and electronic medical records software; and VSP Optics Group, offering ophthalmic products and providing technologically advanced lab services. VSP Global, combining the strength and expertise of each of these companies, offers a choice of integrated eyecare and eyewear programs and services that enhance eyecare professionals’ ability to deliver the best patient experience and build a thriving business.
 
Since 1997, VSP has provided more than 553,000 low-income, uninsured children with free eyecare. Through relationships including those with the American Diabetes Association and Prevent Blindness America, VSP promotes the importance of annual eye exams for maintaining eye health and overall wellness. 
 

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