The Glaucoma Research Foundation has declared January to be National Glaucoma Awareness Month, but it also wants residents of Van Nuys and elsewhere to know that interest in this dangerous optical condition really should be taking place all year, and that the condition can touch all ages, including those currently receiving palliative care.
The staff at Accredited Home Care is happy to support the foundation and other eye care professionals in spreading the word about the importance of education, especially the importance of early detection.
Although there’s not a lot of information yet about how someone can contract glaucoma, several risk factors have been identified along with a variety of methods that can help restore someone’s vision or at least stop or delay any further vision deterioration and permanent vision loss.
Research is still continuing on how glaucoma appears and functions in the body and ways to treatment is. Optical professionals are encouraged to keep track of current research and studies so they can help educate their patients before and after they are diagnosed.
This knowledge is becoming more important as more people are being diagnosed.
In 2012, Today’s Geriatric Medicine newsletter reported that about 2.2 million Americans have it but only about half are aware of it.
This number grew to 3 million at the beginning of 2019, but the Glaucoma Research Foundation expects the total number to grow to 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase.
In the U.S., about 9-12 percent of those who are blind lost their vision due to glaucoma, and worldwide, 60 million people have glaucoma. It’s also the second most common form of blindness at a global level.
Though glaucoma generally is considered to be a serious optical condition, the term actually refers to a group of diseases that can cause damage the optic nerve, often leading to a loss of vision which can cause partial or total blindness.
The Centers for Disease Control said the most common form of glaucoma is called open angle, which results from increased pressure on the optic nerve. About half the people with this condition may not even be aware they have this.
Glaucoma actually has many other unknowns, which makes it especially frightening.
For instance, in some cases there aren’t many early symptoms or indicators that the average person can detect. There also isn’t anything in the form of a universal cure until more research takes place.
What is known, however, is some of the risk factors that, in some cases, can increase one’s risk of acquiring glaucoma.
- A family history of glaucoma
- A diagnosis of diabetes (people with Type 2 are more than twice as likely to also have glaucoma)
- African-American over age 40
- Any age, race or gender over age 60
- Extreme nearsightedness
Glaucoma is also known to increase the difficulty for people to see well in areas of limited light.
Optical professionals say until there’s a cure, the best way to stay on top of glaucoma and avoid vision loss is to have regular eye exams.
This means more than simply reading the numbers or letters on a screen, but a full comprehensive exam where your pupils are dilated. This exam can also make it easier to detect other eye diseases.
People are also encouraged to talk to their families about possible eye conditions and vision health challenges in the past that they may not be aware of.
Experts also suggest keeping an eye on diet and exercise for general wellness. Being physically active can help you maintain your weight and blood pressure. Quitting smoking can lower the risk of glaucoma and other health problems.
Talking to your eye care professional at every visit can also be useful. He or she can discuss your particular risk factors for glaucoma and make any recommendations for ways to treat it if it’s diagnosed.
For instance, although there isn’t a cure currently, prescription eyedrops have been developed that can keep observed glaucoma from spreading further. If this indicated, you may be referred to a specialist in your area or advised to come back more often for follow-up examinations. These can trace how fast the glaucoma is increasing or how much it remains the same as well as your overall vision changes.
Even if you can’t detect anything out of the ordinary, a dilated exam may help an eye care professional have a better understanding of what might be taking place inside your eye. For instance, they can ask about any vision problems and depth perception challenges and compare them to similar measurements in past years.
In some communities, eye care professionals may recommend medication or even surgery to help reduce their risk or even remove something that could be causing pressure or damage to your optic nerve.