Don't Let Glaucoma Steal Your Sight!
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, but half of people with glaucoma don’t know they have it. Get a healthy start this year by learning about glaucoma and taking steps to reduce your risk of vision loss!
Know the Facts
- Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and even blindness.
- About 3 million Americans have glaucoma. It is the 2nd leading cause of blindness worldwide.
- Open-angle glaucoma, the most common form, results in increased eye pressure. There are often no early symptoms, which is why 50% of people with glaucoma don’t know they have the disease.
- There is no cure (yet) for glaucoma, but if it’s caught early, you can preserve your vision and prevent vision loss. Taking action to preserve your vision health is key.
Know Your Risk
Anyone can get glaucoma, but certain groups are at higher risk. These groups include African Americans over age 40, all people over age 60, people with a family history of glaucoma, and people who have diabetes . African Americans are 6 to 8 times more likely to get glaucoma than whites. People with diabetes are 2 times more likely to get glaucoma than people without diabetes.
There are many steps you can take to help protect your eyes and lower your risk of vision loss from glaucoma.
- If you are in a high-risk group, get a comprehensive dilated eye exam to catch glaucoma early and start treatment. Prescription eye drops can stop glaucoma from progressing. Your eye care specialist will recommend how often to return for follow-up exams. Medicare covers a glaucoma test once a year for people in high-risk groups.
- Even if you are not in a high-risk group, getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam by the age of 40 can help catch glaucoma and other eye diseases early.
- Open-angle glaucoma does not have symptoms and is hereditary, so talk to your family members about their vision health to help protect your eyes—and theirs.
- Maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood pressure, being physically active, and avoiding smoking will help you avoid vision loss from glaucoma. These healthy behaviors will also help prevent type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions.
Manage and Treat
Vision loss from glaucoma usually affects peripheral vision (what you can see on the side of your head when looking ahead) first. Later, it will affect your central vision, which is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks like reading and driving.
Glaucoma is treated with eye drops, oral medicine, or surgery (or a combination of treatments) to reduce pressure in the eye and prevent permanent vision loss. Take medicine as prescribed, and tell your eye care specialist about any side effects. You and your doctor are a team. If laser or surgical procedures are recommended to reduce the pressure in your eye, make sure to schedule regular follow-up visits to continue to monitor eye pressure.
Some people with glaucoma have low vision, which means they have a hard time doing routine activities even with the help of glasses or contacts. See the “Low vision resources for glaucoma” link below for more information.