Looking Out for the Sight-Stealing Disease: Glaucoma Awareness Month

Since January is glaucoma awareness month, it is important to know what this disease is and determine who is at risk. Glaucoma is a combination of eye diseases that work overtime to steal sight with no warning, hence why it is called the “sneak thief of sight.” Studies have shown that 40% of one’s vision can be lost without notice, which is permanent vision loss. The loss of vision occurs due to damage to the optic nerve, which is the nerve that carries images from the eye to the brain. This sight-stealing disease can affect people of all ages, but the most common forms usually affect those that are middle-aged and the elderly. High-risk groups for glaucoma include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent, people over the age of 60, people who suffer from diabetes, people who are severely nearsighted, and people in families where the disease is present.

Currently, this disease affects more than 3 million people throughout the United States, which is expected to grow significantly over the next 8-10 years. The increase is predicted to be about 58 percent by 2030, says the National Eye Institute. At this point, there is not yet a cure for glaucoma, but early detection is absolutely vital to an individual with it. Medications and surgery can reduce the risk of or, in some cases, even prevent further vision loss. The treatment plan is determined based on the type of glaucoma and other factors specific to each individual.

Glaucoma can be broken down into two main types. The first is primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), and the second is angle-closure glaucoma. An increase in the pressure inside the eye, also known as intraocular pressure, is the cause of these types of diseases. In some cases, intraocular pressure can be normal, but optic nerve damage still occurs, called normal tension glaucoma. When other cases of optic nerve damage and vision loss arise that involve another disease-causing or contributing to the increased pressure in the eye, it is called secondary glaucoma.

In the world today, glaucoma is the second highest cause of blindness, and it is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. In African-Americans and elderly Hispanics, it is the highest cause of blindness. Over 60 million people worldwide suffer from glaucoma, and approximately half of these people are unaware that they have it. In addition, 4.5 million people are blind due to this disease. In most cases, there aren’t any symptoms, and since the loss of vision begins peripherally in glaucoma, it is unlikely that a person would realize until a high percentage of their vision is gone.

Experts say that the most important thing to remember is that regular eye exams are essential, especially for those at higher risk for glaucoma. When regular comprehensive eye exams are performed, cases of glaucoma can be identified earlier and can help to prevent vision loss. Treatment plans can start immediately after a diagnosis and be the savior of one’s vision. It is important to talk to friends, family, and patients about glaucoma and continue to raise awareness of this sight-stealing disease.

If you or someone you know is in need of in-home assistance to help with the activities of daily living, be sure to find a location for compassionate and dependable home care near you. Visit Assisting Hands® Home Care at  https://assistinghands.com/location-finder/

Written by: Sara Frost

 

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