January marks Glaucoma Awareness Month, a sight-stealing disease affecting more than 3 million people. Glaucoma damages the eye’s optic nerve and for the millions of people sufferi
ng from glaucoma, its effects often sneak up on them. As much as 40 percent of a person’s vision can be lost without
a person noticing, giving the disease then nickname the “the sneak thief of sight.” In some cases there are also no symptoms.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in people over 60 years old but it can affect people at any age. While there is no cure for glaucoma, medication and surgery can slow or prevent vision loss, if it’s caught and treated in time. Early detection is key to stopping the rapid progression of the disease.
There are two types of glaucoma, open-angle and angle-closure. People with open-angle glaucoma may spend years slowly losing their vision without noticing the changes because the initial loss is of peripheral vision. It is important to visit an eye doctor on a routine basis because exams can catch glaucoma in its early stages. If detected early, eye doctors can prescribe preventative medication or perform surgery to help protect vision. You are at most risk for glaucoma if it runs in your family, you are African American or Latino, diabetic or have cardiovascular disease.
Angle-closure glaucoma comes with more noticeable symptoms and its onset can be quicker. Symptoms include head aches, blurry vision, sudden sight loss, the appearance of rainbow colored circles around lights and nausea/vomiting. If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms call a doctor immediately and get checked out.
Living with glaucoma can be different for everyone depending on the diagnosis. For those suffering from glaucoma its important to follow doctor’s recommendations and remain committed to any treatment and medication prescribed. For caregivers, friends and family members, there are things you can do to help. Low vision aids are often covered by health insurance companies. Make sure the home has enough lighting, clutter is removed and post important contact information in big, bold letters.