CHICAGO — More than 2.2 million Americans age 40 and older have open angle glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma. At least half don’t even know they have it.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the world, second only to cataracts, and the leading cause of blindness in African-Americans.
According to research funded by Prevent Blindness America, glaucoma costs the U.S. economy $2.86 billion every year in direct medical costs for outpatient, inpatient and prescription drug services.
As part of January’s National Glaucoma Awareness Month, Prevent Blindness America is joining with other leading eye health organizations in encouraging everyone to educate themselves about the disease as well as make a New Year’s resolution to make eye health a priority.
Glaucoma has long been termed the “sneak thief of sight” because it slowly takes away vision, often without the patient even realizing it.
Glaucoma damages the optic nerve, which sends information from the eyes to the brain. When the optic nerve is damaged, peripheral vision begins to diminish. If left untreated, over time, glaucoma may also damage central vision. Unfortunately, once symptoms are detected, the effectiveness of treatment diminishes. Once vision is lost, it cannot be restored.
Risk factors for glaucoma include advancing age, family history, nearsightedness, eye injury or surgery, and the use of steroid medications. Race is another major risk factor as, according to the National Eye Institute, glaucoma is five times more likely to occur in blacks than in whites, and blacks are four times more likely to go blind from it. Hispanics are more likely to develop glaucoma after age 60 than any other group.
Prevent Blindness America provides free resources to educate consumers about glaucoma, including treatment options and general information at “The Glaucoma Learning Center,” a free website at www.preventblindess.org/glaucoma. Free printed materials are available by request, including the “Guide for People with Glaucoma.” This comprehensive booklet serves as a handbook for patients and includes information about what to expect during treatment and even a list of questions to ask the eye doctor.
The Glaucoma Learning Center also hosts the “Glaucoma Web Discussion Forum,” which allows patients and caregivers the opportunity to discuss online all subjects related to the disease. Topics range from general information about the condition and its treatment, to shared experiences and emotional support.
“We want to stress to everyone that vision can be saved from glaucoma through early diagnosis and treatment,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness America. “Please visit our website or call our toll-free number to get all the free information you can to educate yourself on risk factors, treatment options and even Medicare coverage. Let’s all commit to make 2012 the year to make our eyes a priority and save our sight!”
For more about glaucoma, call Prevent Blindness America at (800) 331-2020 or visit preventblindness.org/glaucoma.
From the Jan. 4-10, 2012, issue