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Experts: Eye Exams Help Determine COVID Mortality Risk

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021   

CARSON CITY, Nev. -- Eye exams can help determine your risk of dying from COVID, according to experts, because optometrists are often the first medical professionals to notice symptoms of diabetes.

A 2020 study in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology found people with diabetes are more than four times more likely to succumb to COVID than non-diabetics.

Dr. Scott Edmonds, optometrist and chief eye care officer at UnitedHealthcare, said getting treatment for diabetes will improve the odds against COVID.

"A well-controlled diabetic will fare better in the face of COVID infection than someone who is an uncontrolled diabetic," Edmonds explained. "And often that difference between controlled and uncontrolled is seen in the eye exam, as opposed to other tests."

Optometrists will suspect diabetes if a person is obese, or has a family history of diabetes, and if a younger person's prescription changes suddenly, if the patient starts to develop cataracts before age 60, or if small hemorrhages are visible under a microscope.

Edmonds noted if a patient is diagnosed as diabetic or pre-diabetic, the optometrist can recommend they take preventive measures against COVID.

"Then we can have that person take more precautions," Edmonds advised. "Being more careful with their masks, maybe talk them into getting a vaccine if they weren't otherwise inclined because now they're at higher risk."

He added so-called "long-haul" COVID can cause neurological changes that result in double vision, blur and eye strain, especially when someone is sitting in front of a computer screen.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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