Alamo Optometry Blog

December 5, 2011

Happy Holidays and Farewell to Coach

Filed under: Uncategorized — gkblog @ 10:01 pm

(As appeared in Alamo Today, December, 2011)

We have reached the end of another year.  We would like to thank all of our friends and patients for helping us sustain and grow our practice.  We feel privileged to work in a great area like Alamo and look forward to serving this great area for years to come. 

In looking forward to the coming year, we unfortunately have to say goodbye to Coach.  The Coach line is moving to another distributor in 2012, so we have increased our inventory of frames and sunglasses.  We are going to discount all Coach frames 20% for the entire month of December.  Please visit the office to look at the selection to get your favorite Coach frame and/or sunglasses before they are gone. 

In addition to preparing for our holiday season, we are constantly being asked during this time of year about flexible spending accounts (FSA) and health spending accounts (HSA).  I thought I would give a quick review about both of these plans and how to fully utilize them by the end of the year.

            A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is one of a number of tax-advantaged financial accounts that can be set up through a cafeteria plan of your employer.  An FSA allows an employee to set aside a portion of his or her earnings to pay for qualified expenses; most commonly for medical expenses but also often for dependent care or other expenses including eye care.   Money deducted from an employee’s pay into an FSA is not subject to payroll taxes, resulting in a substantial payroll tax savings.  The important thing to remember is that any unused money not spent by December 31 will be forfeited by the employee.  As the end of the year approaches, it is paramount that you know how much is left in your account to ensure full utilization. 

            By comparison, a Health Savings Account (HSA), is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to employees who are enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) for your medical insurance.  Unlike a flexible spending account, funds roll over and accumulate year over year if not spent.  Funds may be used to pay for qualified medical expenses at any time without federal tax liability.

            The government has a wide range of specified expenses that qualify as a medical expense.  These include any office co-pays, any necessary or elective surgical procedures (including LASIK), and many medical devices.  Included in that list is any vision correction device (glasses, computer glasses, contact lenses, sports goggles, etc.) and sunglasses (prescription and non-prescription).  As long as your purchase is made by the end of the year, it will count on your 2011 account balance. 

In addition to these tax-friendly accounts, do not forget to utilize your vision insurance.  At our office, we are providers for Vision Service Plan (VSP), Eyemed (which can include vision coverage for Anthem Blue Cross and Aetna if the plan has a eye care provision), and Medical Eye Servies (MES).  All plans have an exam benefit and have variable material allowances towards glasses or contact lenses.  Some plans recycle on the change of the new year, so this is an optimal time to use your benefits.  Between your vision coverage and your FSA or HSA, most if not all of your charges will be covered.

Finally, in this holiday season and all year round, it is important to think about those who could use our help.  We always collect old frames and sunglasses and donate them to a local charity in January.  They are distributed to people who cannot afford quality glasses.  As long as the glasses are wearable, the condition does not matter.  Regardless of appearance, they will definitely assist a person in need to help them see better.  We wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season and look forward to seeing you in the years to come.

Diabetes

Filed under: Uncategorized — gkblog @ 9:57 pm

 (As appeared in Alamo Today, November 2011)

            Since November is national Diabetes Awareness Month, this is a good place and time to discuss a very difficult condition.  Because diabetes is a vascular disorder (affecting blood vessels), it can affect every organ and tissue in the body including liver, kidneys, muscles, and eyes.  Obviously, I will only discuss the eyes here, but keep in mind diabetes is a disease of the entire body.

            For many patients, a change in their vision is the first sign of poorly regulated blood sugar.  As the blood sugar levels in the body rise and fall, the prescription usually follows.  I often tell these patients that their blood sugar needs to be in a relatively confined zone to be able to accurately prescribe glasses for them.  Assuming there is no bleeding in the retina, the main cause for this is a swelling of the lens.  The lens swells in diabetics which causes it to change shape, and therefore change the prescription.  Normally, a patient will still be able to see 20/20, but there will be a large change in the prescription from the prior year.  In patients where there is a large unexplained change in prescription without any other risk factors, the number one assumption is diabetes until proven otherwise.

            Since the eyes have the third highest oxygen requirement of all organs in the body (behind only the heart and brain), it has an extensive supply of blood vessels.  In conditions like diabetes, these blood vessels can start to function poorly and leak blood and fluid into the retina.  This fluid accumulation can lead to decreased vision, especially when it is located around the macula and/or the optic nerve.  Diabetic retinopathy (a diabetic altering of the retinal blood vessels) is the main condition that needs to be checked thoroughly at the annual examination.  Because of this, diabetic patients should be dilated annually, regardless of age and medical control of the diabetes.  Since the retina is the only place in the body where the blood vessels can be observed without an invasive procedure, it gives a very good indication on how well (or poorly) the blood sugar levels are being regulated.  If the retina looks healthy, then for the most part you can assume the other organs in the body are also fine.  If there is bleeding and/or fluid leaking in the retina, the blood sugar is not controlled as well as you thought or is poorly controlled.  Depending on the location and severity of the bleeding, a retinal consult might be necessary.  Regardless, a letter is always sent to your primary doctor outlining my findings and any further visits or treatment that is necessary.

            Diabetes is a very serious condition and should be treated as such.  I always tell my patients to follow-up with their medical doctor and to adhere to all treatment prescribed by your doctor.  Annual dilated eye exams should be conducted to monitor vision and eye health for all diabetics.  Depending on the findings, further visits might be required, but a visit to the eye doctor needs to be done at least annually.  For all of our diabetic patients, we look forward to seeing you for your next annual dilated exam to ensure good vision and eyes that are free from any diabetic complications.

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