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Give the Gift of Vision and Dental Care to Loved Ones Says CompBenefits; National Diabetes Month Underscores Importance of Regular Check-ups


Atlanta, GA, November 20, 2006 – As the holiday season moves into high gear, CompBenefits suggests giving the gift of vision and dental care to loved ones who go without routine check-ups. Regular vision and dental exams may also help control and minimize the complications of adult diabetes, which now affects more than 21 million Americans.

In the U.S., November is officially designated as National Diabetes Month. As a leading provider of vision and dental plan benefits, CompBenefits joins the call for all Americans to include regular check-ups with their vision and dental healthcare providers as part of their total healthcare in preventing and reducing the effects of this chronic disease.

Diabetes is a disease that interferes with the body's ability to use and store sugars and other carbohydrates, and it also reduces the body's resistance to infection. Different types of diabetes either prevent the body from producing insulin or stop the body's ability to properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy sources for our bodies.

Diabetes has no cure and can cause many health problems. Treatments are available to control the disease and minimize the risk of complications, however it is currently ranked as the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.

"This is one of the fastest growing chronic diseases in our country. More alarming, perhaps, is the fact that diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20-74 years," says Howard J. Braverman, O.D., President of the Vision division of CompBenefits.

"Early detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy, which is a degenerative disease of the retina, can usually prevent permanent vision loss," says Dr. Braverman who has practiced optometry for more than 28 years in Florida and is Past President of the American Optometric Association.

Dr. Braverman explained further that high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels that nourish the retina (the delicate, light sensitive lining of the back of the eye) and lead to full-blown diabetic retinopathy. Also, rapid changes in blood sugar can cause temporary changes in vision, even if diabetic eye disease isn't present. Symptoms associated with diabetic retinopathy include blurriness or cloudiness of vision, blind spots or floaters. Early detection of problems and treatment is important because once damage has occurred, the effects are usually permanent.

"Your eye doctor can examine your eyes by using an instrument called an ophthalmoscope that allows the eye doctor to observe changes occurring in the blood vessels of the retina," explains Dr. Braverman.

"Undergoing this type of examination is the first step in the early diagnosis of diabetic eye disease. If you have diabetic retinopathy, laser and other surgical treatments can be used to reduce its progression and decrease the risk of vision loss. If you are a diabetic or if you have a family history of diabetes, diabetes can also affect your vision by causing cataracts and glaucoma," adds Dr. Braverman.

"We encourage people to see their optometrist or ophthalmologist at least once a year to maintain good vision health, prevent permanent problems and receive treatments for existing conditions."

While many Americans may associate diabetes with vision problems, it is less known or recognized that diabetes can significantly affect their oral health, as well.

According to Dr. Charlie Stewart, Clinical Director for CompBenefits, "Medical and dental research has found a strong link between periodontal (gum) disease and diabetes. Periodontal disease is the loss of attachment of the gums to the teeth, occurs over time and is measured in millimeters. Detecting the severity of periodontal disease is difficult for many individuals to notice on their own due to the insidious nature of the disease."

"The good news," says Dr. Stewart, "is that with good preventive dental care, periodontal disease can be prevented in most patients. Even patients who have this problem can get treatment and have their mouths restored to good dental health. In addition to gum diseases, diabetes increases the risk a variety of other oral infections."

Dr. Stewart recommends that to prevent or treat periodontal disease, everyone should have regular check-ups with their dental care professional as recommended.

Dr. Stewart encourages all diabetics to tell their dentist that they have the disease and explain how they manage it so that they can work with their primary care or diabetes physician in coordinating care and treatment.

About CompBenefits
CompBenefits is the vision and dental benefits carrier for nearly 5 million members in 31 states. With Dental HMO, PPO and indemnity insurance, as well as flexible hybrid products, the Company offers plans to fulfill a wide variety of needs. In addition to the more traditional benefits, CompBenefits offers many money-saving programs complemented by an expansive network of vision and dental care providers nationwide. For more information visit www.compbenefits.com.

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