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A BCBSOK outreach specialist performs a diabetic retinal exam.

BCBSOK Outreach Specialists Offer Retinal Exams to Help Prevent Vision Loss

Living with diabetes can present numerous challenges to everyday life, including vision health.

Many develop diabetic retinopathy at some point in their lifetime, a condition caused by damage to the blood vessels in the tissue at the back of the eye. Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in adults, but it can be prevented with early diagnosis.

“It unfortunately often goes undetected until it is too late, and the damage is already done,” says Vickie Curtis-Ragland, a nurse and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK) clinical practice liaison. “This doesn’t have to be the case. If diabetic retinopathy is detected early, you can prevent around 95% of severe vision loss in patients diagnosed with this eye disease.”

One way BCBSOK is working to reverse this trend is through the use of its diabetic retinal exam (DRE) cameras. BCBSOK’s community outreach specialists travel throughout the state, attending community events, meeting with Oklahomans face-to-face and offering DRE exams to help catch the disease sooner rather than later.

For those who qualify for the service, the DRE camera catches potential medical issues that some members might have, such as diabetic retinopathy, but have not been identified by normal routine health assessments. The DRE camera allows BCBSOK’s outreach team to take a retinal scan of the member’s eyes and send them to an ophthalmologist for review. The report is then sent to the member’s primary care physician and the member — identifying any possible eye issues the member may be having due to complications with diabetes and other retinal conditions.

“Catching problems early may literally save the member’s vision or give an indicator that they need to make more lifestyle changes to improve their health,” says Richard Trussell, BCBSOK outreach specialist manager. “Our team is able to interact directly with members in areas where services like the DRE camera are not as readily available, giving us another opportunity to make a difference in communities across Oklahoma.”

For information about the service or upcoming events, visit or call 888-346-9636.

A Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association