What are the warning signs for glaucoma? My 65-year-old brother lost some of his vision because of this disease but never had a clue anything was wrong. Could I be at risk too?
It is called the "silent thief of sight" for a reason. With no early warning signs or pain, most people that have glaucoma do not realize it until their vision begins to deteriorate. Here is what you should know.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can damage the optic nerve and cause vision loss and blindness if left untreated. This typically happens because the fluids in the eye do not drain properly, causing increased pressure in the eyeball.
There are two main types of glaucoma, but the most common form that typically affects older individuals is called open-angle glaucoma. This disease develops very slowly when the eye's drainage canals become clogged over time, leading to blind spots in the peripheral or side vision. By the time it is noticeable, permanent damage is already done.
Are You at Risk?
It is estimated that more than 3 million Americans have glaucoma today, but that number is expected to surge to more than 4 million by 2030. If you answer "yes" to any of the following questions, you may have an increased risk of developing it.
- Are you African American, Hispanic/Latino American or Asian American?
- Are you over age 60?
- Do you have an immediate family member with glaucoma?
- Do you have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, migraines or extreme nearsightedness?
- Have you had a past eye injury?
- Have you used corticosteroids (for example, eye drops, pills, inhalers or creams) for long periods of time?
What to Do
Early detection is the key to treating glaucoma. If you are age 40 or older and have any of the previously listed risk factors, you should get a comprehensive eye examination every year or two. If you notice some loss of peripheral vision, go to the eye doctor right away.
If you are a Medicare beneficiary, annual eye examinations are covered for those at high risk of being diagnosed with glaucoma. If you do not have vision coverage, check into EyeCare America, a national program that provides free glaucoma eye exams without income requirements. Visit EyeCareAmerica.org
or call 877-887-6327 to learn more.
While there is currently no cure for glaucoma, most cases can be treated with prescription eye drops, which reduce eye pressure and can prevent further vision loss. It cannot, however, restore vision that has already been lost from glaucoma. If eye drops do not work, your doctor may recommend oral medication, laser treatments, incisional surgery or a combination of these methods.
For more information about glaucoma, visit the National Eye Institute at NEI.nih.gov
, or the Glaucoma Research Foundation.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.