With Health, The ‘Eyes’ Have It
Wednesday - November 18, 2009 Share
By Michael D. Bennett, M.D.,
Founder and President
Retina Institute of Hawaii & Project Vision
More than a decade ago, I examined a young college graduate who, unexpectedly, was experiencing vision loss in both eyes. She had diabetes, and up until that point had never obtained an eye exam. I believe her vision could have been saved if her condition had been detected earlier.
That knowledge is what inspired me to create Project Vision, a nonprofit mobile screening unit that provides free vision screenings and advocates for the early detection of eye diseases and disorders.
Project Vision is a 35-foot RV equipped with state-of-the art digital imaging equipment that takes high-quality photos of the inside of the eye in a matter of minutes.
We review the images and can detect eye conditions like diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts. We also can detect health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.
Many times diabetics are unaware their condition can make them susceptible to eye disease like diabetic retinopathy, an eye condition that causes damage to the blood vessels in the retina and can result in vision impairment or blindness. There are approximately 100,000 people in Hawaii who have diabetes. Astonishingly, about 50 percent of them will develop diabetic retinopathy during their lifetimes. The longer a person has diabetes, the higher the risk to develop the condition.
Project Vision is a unique way to approach community outreach from a healthcare standpoint. Typically, pain is what causes people to go to the doctor; however, because no pain fibers reside in the retina, people are often not aware of their gradual vision loss until it is too late. We are able to go into the community and offer free screenings and detect diseases that could otherwise cause irreparable damage to one’s vision.
In the past two years, approximately 2,500 people have received important vision screenings through Project Vision. Of those, 40 percent were found to have abnormalities in at least one eye. More than 300 of them had no health insurance.
Project Vision primarily serves the island of Oahu, with staffing and additional support provided by the American Diabetes Association and various Lions clubs. Project Vision also has made visits to the islands of Maui, Hawaii and Molokai.
November marks our two-year anniversary, and we are looking forward to many more years of keeping our community healthy.
For more information or to provide support, call 955-0255 or visit www.retinahawaii.com.
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