The Sneak Thief of Sight can Steal 40% of Vision without being Noticed
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness and unfortunately does not cause any symptoms while it is destroying eyesight. According to the Glaucoma Organization, glaucoma can steal up to 40% of vision without the person noticing. By the time a person does notice vision problems it is too late to ever get that lost vision back again. For this reason it has been dubbed the “sneak thief of sight.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that more than half of the people who have glaucoma do not even know they have it.
About three million Americans have glaucoma. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of worldwide blindness and the number one cause of irreversible blindness. The Glaucoma Organization estimates that about 120,000 Americans have gone blind because of glaucoma.
Glaucoma has no Cure but can be Treated if Caught in Time
Glaucoma is the number one cause of irreversible blindness, which means there is no cure or any way to reverse damage to the eyes. However, while there is no cure, glaucoma can be treated and the earlier it is detected the better. The only way glaucoma can be detected is with an eye exam by a qualified ophthalmologist (eye doctor) who will check the eyes to see if there is raised pressure. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends a yearly eye exam for everyone over age 60, but if glaucoma runs in your family, if you have diabetes or if you are Afro-American then you should get an annual eye exam beginning at age 40 or less. Medicare covers a glaucoma test once a year for people in high-risk groups.
Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve, usually by raising pressure in the eyes. The pressure is generally caused by a buildup of fluid in the eyes. Treatment may be as follows depending on which kind of glaucoma is detected:
- The doctor will prescribe eye drops that can lower pressure in the eyes and hopefully stop the disease from advancing to vision loss and blindness. The drops must be taken continually in order to succeed.
- Medicine may be prescribed that needs to be taken by mouth to lower eye pressure.
- Surgical or laser procedures may be done to improve drainage of fluid from the eyes.
Risks for Glaucoma
- Aging is a high risk for glaucoma and seniors age 60 and over must have eye exams every year or half-year.
- Diabetics have a 2% higher chance of contracting glaucoma than people who are not diabetic.
- A Family History of Glaucoma
- Afro Americans have the highest risk of any ethnic group in the United States and must have annual eye exams beginning at age 40 or younger. According to the CDC, Afro Americans are 6 to 8 times more likely to get glaucoma than other Americans.
Hispanics also have a high risk for developing glaucoma and should have regular eye exams beginning at age 40.
Asians and Native Americans have a high risk for a certain type of glaucoma called narrow angle glaucoma.
CDC’s Vision Health Initiative (VHI) Glaucoma Detection Program
In order to reach out to high risk populations for glaucoma, most of whom have no idea that they even have the disease, the CDC funds detection centers as part of the Vision Health Initiative (VHI) Glaucoma Detection Program:
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)
The UAB founded a unique telemedicine program called EQUALITY (Eye Care Quality and Accessibility Improvement in the Community) in combination with two Walmart Vision Centers (WVCs), located in predominantly African-American communities in urban and rural Alabama. Those who participated in this program were African-American or Hispanic older than 40 years, white older than 50 years, or had diabetes or a family history of glaucoma.
The program provided comprehensive eye exams conducted by local optometrists and enriched by high-resolution images of the retina of the eye that were, in turn, shared with a centralized image reading center in the Department of Ophthalmology at UAB. UAB glaucoma specialists examined the images, reviewed the diagnosis, and participated in the development of a treatment plan recommended by the optometrist. Educational aspects included brochures, short consumer-oriented videos and posters that were placed in the vision centers.
Willis Eye Hospital, Philadelphia PA
Willis used mobile eye care strategy to reach high-risk populations in the Philadelphia area. The program targeted African-Americans older than 50 years, and all adults older than 60 years. Willis provided educational workshops to raise awareness about glaucoma. In various community sites free eye examinations were provided by a team of four to seven eye technicians and a glaucoma specialist. Laser treatment was also provided to patients in the community.
John Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins’ Dana Center for Preventive Ophthalmology, as part of the Wilmer Eye Institute, has initiated a program that targets at-risk African-American and Hispanic populations older than 50 years in Baltimore, Maryland.
Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in East Orange, New Jersey
The Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in East Orange, New Jersey offers a full range of medical services to its residents, including ophthalmological (eye) medical services. Park Crescent also offers diabetes monitoring and care. Best of all, they have a warm and dedicated staff, so that you or your loved one will get the very best skilled nursing care.
If you are over age 60 and have never had a proper eye exam or are African-American over age 40, then make haste because if glaucoma is detected you still might be able to be treated to prevent going blind. Please do not wait until you have suffered vision loss to go and get your eyes checked because the damage inflicted on the eyes by glaucoma cannot be undone!