Half of People with Glaucoma do not Know they Have it
January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month to raise awareness about this “sneak thief of sight” which shows no symptoms while it is stealing vision. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 50% of people who have glaucoma do not know they have it. About three million Americans have glaucoma, which is the second leading cause of blindness all over the world and the number one cause of irreversible blindness. According to the Glaucoma Organization, there are 120,000 Americans that are blind because of glaucoma (9-12% of all cases of blindness).
Glaucoma can Steal 40% of Vision without being Noticed
According to the Glaucoma Organization, as much as 40% of vision can be permanently lost from glaucoma without a person noticing it. If glaucoma is undetected, it can continue to progress to more serious vision loss or it can come on without warning as an acute attack of primary open angle glaucoma (POAG) or angle closure glaucoma, which can lead to blindness.
Glaucoma can only be Detected with a Proper Eye Exam by an Ophthalmologist
The only way glaucoma can be detected is by going to an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) who will check the pressure of the eyes. In most cases glaucoma causes an increase in pressure in the eyes, which is not otherwise noticed or felt. If glaucoma is detected, the doctor will prescribe eye drops to lower pressure in the eyes or in some cases will suggest laser or other forms of eye surgery depending on the condition of the eyes. The American Optometric Association recommends a yearly eye exam for everyone over age 60, but if glaucoma runs in your family, if you have diabetes or if you are Afro-American then you should get an annual eye exam beginning at age 40 or less.
There are several kinds of glaucoma and there is to date no cure, but early intervention can prevent or slow down further vision loss. All types of glaucoma cause damage to the optic nerve of the eye and without treatment can lead to vision loss or blindness. The most common kind of vision loss is to peripheral vision (what you can see on the side while looking straight ahead). However, if untreated or if treatment does not succeed it can progress to the point where it affects central vision which is how you see things clearly and for being able to read and drive.
The most common form of glaucoma is called open-angle glaucoma which runs in families and does not usually cause any symptoms. It is usually diagnosed if an eye doctor notices increased pressure in the eye or eyes during an eye exam.
Risks for Glaucoma
While glaucoma can come on at any age, it is most common in seniors over the age of 60. However, Afr0-Americans over the age of 40 are prone to glaucoma. Diabetics are at a high risk for glaucoma and have a 2% higher chance to get it than non-diabetics. Glaucoma also runs in families, so if there is a family history of it, then you should make an appointment with an ophthalmologist to check your eyes.
Angle-closure glaucoma is more common among people who have narrow angles and who may also be far-sighted. Asians and Native Americans have a higher risk for angle-closure glaucoma.
Treatment will usually depend on the kind of glaucoma the doctor finds. In some cases treatment will only be by eye drops that lower the pressure in the eye. Sometimes medicine is also prescribed to be taken by mouth. Other treatments may be by laser or other surgical procedures. It is very important to take glaucoma eye drops all the time, but if you experience any kind of side effects, you must let your doctor know right away.
Low vision is when a person has a hard time carrying out routine activities and eye glasses and contact lenses do not help.
Preventing Vision Loss from Glaucoma
The same lifestyle to adapt to help to prevent diabetes can also help to prevent glaucoma:
Do not smoke.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Keep your blood pressure under control.
Keep physically active.
Short or Long-term Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care
If you or your loved one are in need of short or long-term rehabilitation and skilled nursing care and if you suffer from glaucoma, be sure to choose a facility like the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York that has a consultant ophthalmologist available to the Van Duyn medical staff.
Since glaucoma can cause up to 40% of vision loss before it is noticeable it is crucial to go for an annual eye exam by an ophthalmologist from the age of 60 or earlier if you are Afro-American, Hispanic or Asian so that it can be caught in its earliest stages before it advances to vision loss and even blindness.