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Protect your eyesight: Free and low-cost vision care

Written by Diane Archer
Your ability to see well is precious. But, your vision is likely to deteriorate as you age. Some people develop eye diseases that have no early warning signs, including age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, dry eye and diabetes eye disease. They require treatment to help preserve vision. In some cases, if you do not get treatment, you could lose your vision. So, you want to get your eyes checked regularly. While Medicare does not cover routine eye care or eyeglasses generally, here are some options for free or low-cost vision care.
  • Medicare pays for procedures to treat a chronic eye condition like a cataract, as well as glasses you need post cataract surgery.
  • Medicare pays for annual eye exams if you have diabetes or are at high risk for glaucoma.
  • Medicaid generally pays for eye care. For information about Medicaid coverage in your state visit the Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly). PACE programs generally provide vision care to program participants, along with an array of other important services. For more information, click here.
  • Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC). Across the country, thousands of FQHCs, sometimes called Community Health Centers or CHCs,  offer a wide range of free or low-cost health care services, including vision care. To find a health center near you, click here.
  • If you’re a Vet, the VA may cover your eye exam and glasses.
  • EyeCare America offers no-cost eye examinations through the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology,
  • Lions’ Club may assist older adults needing vision care. Contact your local Lions’ Club chapter through this online Lions’ Club Directory.
  • For information about free or low-cost eye care in your community, visit Eldercare.gov. Also, The National Federation of the Blind provides a range of online resources for older adults.
Here are three ways you can protect your eyesight:
  1. Get an annual eye exam: According to the National Institute on Aging, if you’re over 65 you should have your eyes checked regularly.  Dilating your eyes allows the doctor to detect diseases, which need treating—such as cataracts, glaucoma, corneal diseases, retinal disorders and dry eye–but which may not show any symptoms. Early detection can help preserve your vision.
  2. See the eye doctor right away if you have vision problems such as swelling around your eyes, double vision, light flashes, eye pain or blurriness.
  3. Take care of your eyes: Wear sunglasses in bright light to protect against ultraviolet radiation, wear a broad-rimmed hat, eat healthy, and keep your weight in check.

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