Read about common eye diseases and if they are covered by your vision health insurance plans.
Practicing proper eye care is essential to maintaining your eyesight and the overall health of your eyes. We help you understand what the most common eyes diseases are, so you can be aware of any changes to your eyes or vision because of injury, illness, or age.
For optimum eye health, you might want to make an annual eye exam part of your regular health care. You may also want to consider a good vision insurance plan, in order to cover costs associated with eye care.
Common eye problems
Early detection of most eye problems can be essential in treating them. This is one of the reasons why annual eye exams are so important to good eye care.
Vision impairment: According to the CDC, the most common eye problems in the U.S. are due to refractive errors. Refractive errors in your eyes result in impaired vision, and include astigmatism (distorted vision), myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), and presbyopia (inability to focus on close objects, usually in people age 40 and older). Vision impairments such as these can often be corrected by eyeglasses or contact lenses and sometimes by surgery, such as LASIK.
Cataracts: Other common eye disorders include cataracts, which is essentially a clouding of the eye’s lens and is the leading cause of eyesight loss in the U.S. and worldwide. Stronger lighting and eyeglasses are initially effective against cataracts, but the majority of patients eventually require surgery, which can be quite safe and immensely successful depending on individual circumstances.
Glaucoma: Glaucoma, which causes damage to the eye’s optic nerve and can result in partial or total blindness, is another major eye disorder. In general, glaucoma is treated with medication (eye drops or pills) or surgery (traditional or laser). The goal is to prevent blindness in the patient.
Macular degeneration: People over 40 sometimes suffer from age-related macular degeneration, which results in blurred central vision. Central vision is essential for daily tasks, like reading and driving, so age-related macular degeneration can severely affect a person’s quality of life and independence. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for age-related macular degeneration, but you can adopt some healthy habits (including exercise, avoiding smoking, and eating lots of leafy green vegetables) to slow the progression of the disease.
Diabetic retinopathy: Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in American adults, and it’s a common complication associated with diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy can be managed through careful control of a person’s blood sugar, blood pressure, and lipid abnormalities. For diabetics, an annual eye exam is very important and is typically covered by health insurance plans.
Conjunctivitis: An extremely common, if not always serious, eye problem is conjunctivitis. Often referred to as “pink eye,” conjunctivitis is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, and it can affect one or both eyes. It can also be highly contagious. Conjunctivitis is relatively a minor eye disease, but it can develop into a more serious problem if not treated properly. The treatment depends on the cause (allergic, viral, bacterial, etc.), and it usually involves topical antibiotics or artificial tears.
Blindness: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 3.3 million Americans are legally blind, many of them because of age-related eye diseases. However, blindness can also be a result of diabetic retinopathy, which is becoming more common in the U.S.
Amblyopia: This is one of the most common vision problems in children. Also called “lazy eye,” amblyopia occurs when the eye and brain don’t work together properly. The brain favors one eye over the other, meaning that one eye is not being used normally. If not treated properly during childhood, amblyopia can lead to blindness. However, applying an eye patch over the healthy eye, causing the child to use the “lazy” eye, is often an effective treatment. Treatment might also include corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Strabismus: This condition is another common eye disease that afflicts children. Strabismus causes eyes to cross in or turn out, and it can also lead to blindness if left untreated. Treatment should begin extremely early, sometimes even when the child is a week old, to minimize the progression of this eye disease. Treatment can also include corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses.
For any eye disease or eye problem, it’s always a good idea to consult with an eye specialist. Practitioners specializing in the treatment of eye and vision disorders include ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians.
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor licensed to practice medicine and surgery of the eye, and should always be consulted for any serious eye problem, including physical injury to the eye. Medical services from an ophthalmologist are normally covered by your health insurance policy.
An optometrist is not a medical doctor, but a specialist who generally provides eye care like vision testing and correction, as well as treatment and management of vision changes. Vision testing of this sort is usually not covered by your health insurance, but may be covered by a vision plan.
An optician is a technician trained to verify and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, usually following the instructions of an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Optician services may be covered by a vision plan as well.
Annual eye exams and vision insurance
An annual eye exam can help you maintain good, clear vision and overall eye health. Annual eye exams are not only for people with vision problems. These exams can also check the overall health of your eye, diagnose any issues, and treat any disorders. If you experience any experience any troublesome problems, such as pain or huge changes in vision quality, you may well need to see an eye doctor right away.
Under the Affordable Care Act (or ACA, also referred to as “Obamacare”), all qualified health plans must cover many eye diseases, including glaucoma, cataracts, amblyopia, strabismus, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration. These are all considered to be medical problems and are covered by your major medical insurance plan.
Additionally, the Obamacare qualified health plans are required to include pediatric vision coverage for all patients under 19 years of age, including an annual eye exam and eyeglasses, if necessary.
However, the overwhelming majority of qualified health plans under Obamacare don’t offer vision coverage for adults. This means that your major medical insurance plan quite possibly doesn’t cover vision problems due to refractive errors or mild but common eye diseases like conjunctivitis. So, if you need adult vision coverage, including coverage for an annual vision exam plus benefits such as eyeglass lenses and frames, partial coverage for LASIK procedures, and so on, you may want to consider purchasing a stand-alone vision insurance plan.
We can help you find out more about the various vision plans available to help safeguard your eyesight.
- Just call eHealth agents at 1-866-787-8773, TTY users 711; Monday through Friday, 8AM to 8PM ET, Saturday, 9AM to 6PM ET.
- Or, visit eHealth’s vision insurance center and get a quote.
This article is for informational purposes only. Nothing in it should be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult with your medical provider regarding diagnosis or treatment for a health condition, including decisions about the correct medication for your condition, as well as prior to undertaking any specific exercise or dietary routine.