Seeing the Full Picture of Diabetes

By Jeffrey Gerson, OD, FAAO


In the U.S., one in two adults has diabetes or prediabetes1—and the numbers keep rising. As Doctors of Optometry (ODs), we can help slow the impact the disease can have on vision and overall health through early detection, intervention, and management.  

In my practice, I take a holistic approach when treating patients and include a variety of methods such as retinal image screening and patient education. I also encourage a collaborative approach to managing care for my patients who have, or who I suspect have, diabetes or prediabetes. 

Retinal image screening allows me to see the full picture of a patient’s retinal health, which can include signs of diabetes or other chronic health conditions. This is important given recent work at the Joslin Diabetes Center, a global diabetes research organization, which shows that without looking at the peripheral retina, the severity of retinopathy is underestimated on more than 10% of cases.  

Retinal image screening also plays a big role in patient education, as many patients don’t fully understand what it is or the value it has on their eye health, as well as their overall health. I find that involving patients when reviewing the results makes it easier for them to understand the structure of the eye. It also provides a natural path for discussions around recommendations for treatment options or coordination with their health and wellness teams for their overall health care.  

When patients come in for their eye exam, I let them know if retinal image screening is covered by their vision benefits, as many patients aren’t aware if it’s covered or not. Retinal image screening is covered for patients who have diabetes—even if they don’t have signs of diabetic eye disease—through the VSP Primary EyeCare PlanSM and the VSP Diabetic Eyecare Plus ProgramSM, available through VSP® Vision Care.  

As I see it, I want my patients to feel empowered to take good care of their eye health and overall health to avoid getting, or slow the progression of, diabetes or diabetic eye disease through early detection. Working together we can create better outcomes and decrease the impact diabetes could have on their vision and their quality of life.  

Learn more about additional resources and information to help you manage patients with diabetes and prediabetes at 

1. American Diabetes Association  

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