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Nov 23rd

Glaucoma: Vision loss from the disease can usually be prevented

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Schaumburg, IL - With glaucoma, a fluid called aqueous humor doesn’t drain correctly through channels in the front of the eye. The fluid build-up leads to increased intraocular pressure, which damages the optic nerve. Schaumburg, IL - With glaucoma, a fluid called aqueous humor doesn’t drain correctly through channels in the front of the eye. The fluid build-up leads to increased intraocular pressure, which damages the optic nerve. Untreated, glaucoma can permanently damage the nerve, leading to reduced vision or even blindness.

According to Prevent Blindness America’s recently published Vision Problems in the U.S., 2.2 million Americans age 40 and older, or about 1.9% of that population have glaucoma. “One of the most important things is to make people aware of the disease and that it is quite manageable if detected early,” said Daniel D. Garrett, Prevent Blindness America (PBA) spokesperson.

Luckily, there have been great improvements in medical science since Joyce’s day, and glaucoma treatment is no exception. While there is no cure, glaucoma is usually a treatable condition, if diagnosed early. Treatment for glaucoma has improved greatly in the last decade. Prostaglandin analogues, the newest class of glaucoma drug, were introduced in the United States in 1996. This type of medication is most helpful for people who cannot tolerate other glaucoma drugs. There are several other types of medications, but what they all have in common is the goal of decreasing intraocular pressure in the eye.

In the early stages, glaucoma has no symptoms - no noticeable vision loss, no pain, which is why it is called the Sneak Thief of Sight. By the time symptoms start to appear, some permanent damage to the eye has usually occurred. “Getting regular dilated eye exams is crucial, in particular if you are at increased risk of developing glaucoma,” added Garrett.

Risk factors for glaucoma include:

•Age: Those age 40 and older are more likely to develop glaucoma. The older you are, the greater your risk.

•Ethnicity: People of African or Afro-Caribbean heritage have glaucoma four to five times more often than the rest of the population. They are also likely to develop glaucoma at a younger age.

•Family History: If you have a parent or sibling who has glaucoma, you are more likely to develop the disease.

•Diabetes: People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing glaucoma.

•Nearsightedness: People who are very nearsighted are at greater risk.

•Eye Injury or Surgery: Those who have had eye surgery or eye injuries may develop secondary glaucoma.

•Steroid Medication: Steroids may increase the risk of glaucoma when used for extended periods of time

Effective Jan. 1, 2002, Medicare now pays for glaucoma detection exams in recipients age 60 and older and at high risk, or those with a family history of the disease. PBA offers a free flyer describing this benefit, Glaucoma Medicare Benefit, as well as the Glaucoma Eye Q Test to anyone who calls the PBA Hotline at 1-800-331-2020.
 

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