U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Indian Health Service: The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives
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Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention - Leading the effort to treat and prevent diabetes in American Indians and Alaska Natives

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Photo of Julie Sierra (Papago) getting an eye exam at the Phoenix Indian Medical Center (PIMC). Julie Sierra (Papago) went to the Phoenix Indian Medical Center to get a general checkup. She got much more! Julie saw an amazing sight. With the help of a new machine, many Native people with diabetes see the insides of their eyes. It is quick and painless. There are no eye drops. The eyes do not have to be dilated. There is no puff of air on the eyeball! “It was easy!” says Julie.

Health for Native Life, Number 10

Seeing is Believing! Wow! Get a Look into Your Own Eyes!

The pictures tell the story
Wallace Johnson (Navajo) went to the Phoenix Indian Medical Center to get a general exam. Like other diabetes patients, he was automatically sent to have a “JVN” eye scan. He had never had one before. JVN eye scans are new and are quickly becoming more available at Indian Health Service clinics across the U.S.

Paula Lingruen (Navajo) put a camera-like machine up to Wallace’s face. She quickly took 11 photos of each eye.

Wallace felt nothing. He just saw 22 flashes of light. Then it was over. Paula showed him the images on a computer. Wallace had never seen pictures of his eyes. “Seeing pictures of my eyes tells me what’s going on,” he says.

After the pictures are taken, they are sent to a special center where staff look at them to see if there is any damage. When a person has diabetes, the blood vessels in the eye can become damaged. The images show if there is any blood vessel damage. A trained technician grades the images, then sends a letter to the patient and a report to the clinic staff. This is a quick and painless way for patients to find out how their eyes are doing.

Photo of Paula Lingruen (Navajo) showing William Johnson (Navajo) images of the inside of his eye. Paula Lingruen (Navajo) shows William Johnson (Navajo) images of the inside of his eye. This was William’s first retinal eye scan. “It was easy,” he says.

From nervous to excited
Randy Saria (Hopi) has worked for the JVN eye scan program for six years. He says patients sometimes get nervous. But all that changes when they meet a Native American technician and find out that the scan is completely painless. Then they lose their fear. “They become curious, then amazed,” says Randy.

Some patients are even more emotional. “When they know they are actually seeing their own eyes, sometimes they cry,” he says. Julie Sierra (Papago) has had diabetes for 17 years. She says this was her first time to see pictures of her eyes. “No one has ever shown me my eyes before.”

Julie says seeing the insides of her eyes is very interesting. Now she is more aware of how diabetes may affect her eyes. She made an appointment to get her eyes scanned again in six months. “Yes! I’ll come in for an eye scan!” she says.

Monitor with an image of a JVN eye scan.

Seeing the connection
The pictures of eyes are helping many people. Dr. Mark Horton is the director for the IHS/JVN Teleophthalmology Program. He says there are over 57 JVN sites across the country that give these kinds of eye scans. Over 21,000 people have had these scans since the year 2000.

In the past, only half of Native American patients with diabetes had annual eye exams. This scan does not take the place of complete eye exams. It gives quick, accurate information about diabetes and other diseases that affect the eyes. And almost as important, it helps patients feel a connection to their eyes. It helps them understand that high blood sugar might damage the eye. It helps them better manage blood sugar, keep their eye appointments, and generally take better care of their health.

With the help of the JVN eye scans, more people are making and keeping eye appointments and other diabetes care appointments.

JVN Scans Offered in Over 50 IHS Clinics

There are over 50 Indian Health Service clinics across the U.S. that offer JVN eye scans.
Here is a list of the cities that have IHS clinics offering the scans.

  • Fairbanks, AK
  • Ft. Defiance, AZ
  • Hopi, AZ
  • Inscription House, AZ
  • Kayenta, AZ
  • Parker, AZ
  • Peach Springs, AZ
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Salt River, AZ
  • San Carlos, AZ
  • Sells, AZ
  • Tuba City, AZ
  • Tucson, AZ
    • Pascua Yaqui Tribe
    • San Xavier
  • Fort Hall, ID
  • Lapwai, ID
  • Plummer, ID
  • Lawrence, KS
  • Cass Lake, MN
  • Crow Agency, MT
  • Ft. Belknap, MT
  • Winnebago, NE
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Crown Point, NM
  • Jicarilla, NM
  • Mescalero, NM
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Shiprock, NM
  • Elko, NV
  • Fallon, NV
  • McDermitt, NV
  • Reno Sparks, NV
  • Schurz, NV
  • Washoe, NV
  • Clinton, OK
  • Eufaula, OK
  • Ft. Yuma, OK
  • Lawton, OK
  • Oklahoma City, OK
  • Okmulgee, OK
  • Pawnee, OK
  • Tahlequah, OK
  • Wewoka, OK
  • Salem, OR
  • Warm Springs, OR
  • Rock Hill, SC
  • McLaughlin, SD
  • Pine Ridge, SD
  • Rosebud, SD
  • Livingston, TX
  • Nespelem, WA
  • Tacoma, WA
  • Wellpinit, WA
  • Yakima, WA

IHS Clinic Sites that are planning to offer JVN eye scans in the future:

  • Navajo Mountain, AZ
  • Mayetta, KS
  • Blanding, UT
  • Montezuma Creek, UT
  • Monument Valley, UT
Native Girl

There’s a world of beauty to see.

Keep your eyes healthy.

If you have diabetes, get your eyes checked once a year.

You can prevent vision loss.

You can keep seeing beautiful things for years to come.

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Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention | Phone: 1-844-IHS-DDTP (1-844-447-3387) | diabetesprogram@ihs.gov