Hundreds take advantage of free eye exams & glasses

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - More than 200 people took advantage of a free health screening in Biloxi Monday. It's an exam that could save their eyesight and even their life. One way to detect the early signs of diabetes is through an eye exam. So a vision clinic rolled into Biloxi to help those who may be at risk.

Inside, the clinic looked like an optometrist's office, but it was actually on wheels. The VSP Mobile Eye Clinic pulled up next to the Coastal Family Health Center in Biloxi to provide free eye exams.

"We have had a huge response here this morning," said Kim Rankin with VSP Vision Care. "Folks who don't have access to vision care can come out, have a diabetic risk assessment, and then a free comprehensive eye exam and a free pair of glasses."

The VSP visit was part of a national campaign that focuses on the early detection of diabetes. Mississippi has the second highest number of diabetes cases. It's estimated that more than 100,000 Mississippians don't even know they have the disease.

"When the doctor looks into the eye, they can actually see the blood vessel. So it's a non-invasive way that blood vessels can be looked at and that's where they're actually going to see the symptoms of diabetes," said Rankin.

The service was available to low-income, uninsured, and under-insured people like Sandra Magee of Gulfport.

"I heard about the free exam on channel 13 this morning and I immediately got ready and came over to get a free eye exam, not knowing that I was also going to get a free pair of glasses. So I think this is a very good service," said Magee.

VSP said an eye exam can detect symptoms of 33 different diseases, even in people who have good vision. The company wants to give people a clearer view of the risks, so they can take steps now to prevent more serious health consequences.

"If you don't have your vision, you don't have anything. You can't walk, you can't read, you're lost," said Magee.

"I wouldn't have gone for an eye exam without being able to come here," said Diane Barker of Biloxi. "Oh, I'm able to see much better. I'll be safer driving."

VSP is the largest not-for-profit vision insurance company in the country. As part of its visit Monday, Mayor A.J. Holloway declared February 13 "Eye on Diabetes Day in Biloxi."

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