Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Getting the Facts on Glaucoma

Currently, more than three million people in the United States suffer from glaucoma. According to the National Eye Institute, this number is expected to rise to about 4.2 million by the year 2030. January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to learn more about the disease - and how to help prevent it.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a classification of diseases that damage your optic nerve, which carries images from your eye to your brain. The Glaucoma Research Foundation calls it "the sneak thief of sight," as there are no symptoms. In addition, any loss of vision permanent; you can lose as much as 40% of your eyesight without noticing. It is progressive and irreversible, and initial vision loss from glaucoma is to your peripheral (side) vision, so if you have it, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost.
The onset of glaucoma often results in the complete loss of eyesight. The World Health Organization estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind as a result of glaucoma, with over 120,000 of those people in the United States alone.

The most common type of glaucoma is hereditary. Siblings of people with glaucoma are at a much greater risk. It can affect people of any age, but usually occurs to the elderly and people of middle age.

There are two main types of glaucoma: primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), and Angle-Closure Glaucoma. Both are identified by an increase of pressure inside the eye.
When optic nerve damage has occurred despite a normal nerve pressure, this is called normal tension glaucoma.

Secondary glaucoma can occur when a different disease contributes to increased eye pressure, resulting in optic nerve damage and vision loss. Read about this and other types of glaucoma here.

How can glaucoma be prevented?

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness and is the leading cause of preventable blindness. A number of factors can put you at higher risk. This includes:
  • People of African, Asian, or Hispanic descent 
  • People over 60 
  • Family members of those already diagnosed 
  • Diabetics 
  • Those who are severely nearsighted
Raising awareness is the key to prevention. Though glaucoma’s most common form has virtually no symptoms, a comprehensive eye examination can reveal its presence and allow you to begin treatment immediately.

The right treatment for glaucoma depends upon the type of glaucoma you have as well as other factors. Although there is no cure, medication or surgery can help slow or prevent further vision loss. This is why awareness and early detection are vital to stopping the progress of the disease.

Learn more

The resources below can help you increase your awareness and understanding of glaucoma:
Remember that regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk, and may help to prevent vision loss. If you have been diagnosed with the disease, it's important to follow your treatment as instructed by your doctor, including taking your medication exactly as prescribed. However, recent studies have shown that many people in the United States skip their medication, due to the high costs associated with them.

free prescription savings card like the one offered by FamilyWize can help make medication more affordable, even if you have insurance. Last year, the FamilyWize card saved an average of 43% on prescription medications. Everyone is eligible and there are no restrictions, so if you're concerned about the price of your prescription or know someone who is struggling to pay for their medication, the card can be a great way to save.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

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