Q: I’ve been wearing glasses since I was in grade school. I always had yearly examinations and updated my glasses whenever there was a change in my vision. Since I have been on Medicare I have gone for longer periods of time before visiting my Opthamologist because of insurance coverage. Lately I have been noticing bright flashes of light in my right eye field of vision. I don’t experience any pain but it is very disruptive. Is this something I should be concerned about even if it means paying out of pocket for the examination?
A: If you are enrolled in Original Medicare there is not a benefit for routine vision services (eye exams or glasses). Coverage is provided for individuals who have medical conditions such as diabetes or the beneficiary is in a high risk group for developing or has been diagnosed with cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration. Additionally Medicare may cover partial costs associated with eye problems resulting from an illness or injury. Consumers should discuss their coverage options with their eye care provider whenever they have a concern about their individual care and costs involved.
The lights you are describing may be a result of the vitreous gel inside the eye shrinking or changing pulling on the retina. Those who have experienced this often comment it is like seeing “shooting stars” or “lightning streaks”. As a person ages they may see occasional flashes of light which could be harmless but they should always discuss this with their medical provider. If this is of a more serious nature it could be an indication of retinal detachment and should not be ignored. This condition could lead to blindness if untreated. An examination should be conducted as soon as possible.
Understandably cost can be a concern for people who do not have sufficient insurance but on the flip side no one wants to put a price on losing their vision. EyeCare of America is a resource to pursue to inquire if you might be eligible to receive care through their group of volunteer Opthamologists or they may be able to refer you to other organizations for financial assistance. Information in this column is provided for educational purposes only and are never intended to diagnose conditions. We always advise individuals to follow up immediately with a medical provider with any symptoms they are experiencing.
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Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., AgeInfo Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.