There are lots of things scary about glaucoma but one that should be especially concerning is that it can be present long before anyone starts to detect signs of it. That’s why eye care professionals and the staff at Accredited Home Care encourages everyone to have regularly scheduled exams, and maybe even more often if they are considered at higher risk.
That way, if signs of glaucoma are indicated, even in small amounts, appropriate treatment plans can be discussed and treatment can begin right away. Waiting to take care of it until the symptoms are more pronounced and noticeable can increase the risk of greater deterioration and long-term damage to the affected eye or eyes.
What Is Glaucoma?
If you’re not familiar with glaucoma, it’s a disease of the eye where the inner pressure of the eye slowly increases. In most people, our eyes have fluid that moves around the eye and keeps optical tissue lubricated. But if the circulation is disrupted and the fluid doesn’t move around or be absorbed as much as it’s supposed to, it can build up in a small chamber by the cornea and iris, and put pressure on the different parts of the eye, including the optic nerve.
If untreated, the pressure can build up and eventually cause severe vision loss, especially on both sides of the eye: people may effectively have tunnel vision and will only be able to see straight ahead, or maybe not at all.
The number of cases of glaucoma keeps growing, and glaucoma is now considered one of the leading causes of vision loss and blindness in the U.S. and the world.
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, about 3 million people in the U.S. have glaucoma, and half may not even be aware of it. World-wide, the number of cases is supposed to increase to about 76 million by 2020.
The disease can affect any age, race or gender, but seniors are especially at risk due to aging eyes and optic pressure gradually increasing over time in one or both eyes.
There’s also no effective cure for glaucoma at this time, although there are various methods to treat and control it, including medicate eye drops or even laser surgery in some cases. Research is continuing to take place.
Take time to learn more
People who research glaucoma and promote proper care and treatment for patients suggest that the new year can be an excellent time to learn more about it and consider scheduling an eye exam, especially if it’s been awhile since your last one.
Experts generally recommend an exam every two years, but if someone is at a higher risk, they may be asked to come in more often.
This exam can include a standard vision check that includes dilation plus screening for glaucoma, cataracts or other common eye diseases. Annual glaucoma tests are covered under Medicare Part B.
January is also considered Glaucoma Awareness Month, an annual initiative organized by the National Eye Health Education Program. It encourages everyone to try to learn more about it, especially those in higher risk categories or those who know people in higher risk categories.
Risk categories can include:
- People with a family history of glaucoma
- African-Americans over age 40
- Hispanic/Latinos over age 60
- Anyone over age 60
Though it’s difficult to detect lower levels of internal pressure, one noticeable indicator of possible glaucoma is a gradual loss of peripheral vision. If someone finds themselves turning their head more to see right or left instead of tracking with their eyes, it could be a sign that a check-up is in order.
Getting checked, possibly diagnosed and beginning treatment for glaucoma are all strongly encouraged, but people who are already living with the disease in the Costa Mesa area may continue to have other challenges.
For instance, loss or reduction of peripheral vision could cause problems in navigation at their home or other locations. Those with severe cases of vision loss may see obstacles near them but not directly in front of them.
Taking medication regularly is also vital – forgetting to do so may allow deterioration to resume. This can include medicate eye drops.
Caregivers can encourage and remind people to take their medication on a regular basis or make sure any obstacles are out of the way to reduce the risk of someone tripping and falling.
In a home health care environment, representatives can perform similar tasks of reminding about medication and assessing a client’s home environment for possible fall hazards.
The team at Accredited Home Care wants to be aware if a client has been diagnosed with glaucoma. This will encourage us to be aware of possible vision problems and encourage them to take their medicine as scheduled. Or if they’re unable to administer eye drops themselves, we can make sure this is done.
We also encourage our clients in the Costa Mesa area to receive regular check-ups as recommended by their provider, and will be happy to relay any of our observations to a general provider or eye care provider as well.