Why Glaucoma Awareness Is Essential, and How to Get Involved
More than three million people in the United States have glaucoma, and that number is expected to increase to 6.3 million by 2050. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that affect the optic nerve, the highway that transports electrical impulses from the eye to the brain, where light is transformed into images. The disease tends to be asymptomatic until the disease is advanced and irreversible vision loss has occurred. In fact, up to 40% of your vision can be lost without you noticing it. Early detection and treatment are necessary to preserve remaining vision and prevent blindness. This is the goal of Glaucoma Awareness Month.
Types of glaucoma
The most common forms of glaucoma are:
- Primary open–angle glaucoma. POAG causes peripheral (side) vision to decline.
- Angle–closure glaucoma. ACG involves pressure on the iris, which interferes with fluid drainage.
- Normal-tension glaucoma. NTG occurs without internal eye pressure becoming elevated.
Symptoms of glaucoma
As glaucoma advances, your peripheral vision will start to blur, then disappear altogether. You are not likely to notice this, however, because your brain fills in the missing spots with what it thinks you should be seeing based on what’s visible in your central vision. This can be extremely dangerous for you and others, especially if you’re driving.
Angle-closure glaucoma carries additional dangers, as an acute case can cause a rapid increase in eye pressure. Sudden severe eye pain and/or headache, and visual halos around lights, can indicate acute ACG, and you sould seek immediate emergency medical care in order to avoid blindness.
Risk factors for glaucoma
- Older age. It’s most common in people over the age of 60, but people of any age can develop glaucoma.
- Family history. Parents or siblings having the disease makes you nine times more likely to develop it, as well.
- Race and ethnicity. According to the CDC, in 2018, the crude annual prevalence of diagnosed glaucoma in the U.S. by race was:
- 29.76% Black, non-Hispanic
- 22.74% Asian
- 19.80% Hispanics
- 18.04% in North American Natives
- 17.50% in White, non-Hispanics
- Underlying medical conditions. Diabetes, hypertension, migraines, and sickle-cell anemia can all contribute to developing glaucoma.
What can I do to help raise awareness about glaucoma?
Glaucoma is sneaky, so many people don’t think that they’re at risk–or even have the disease– unless they’re experiencing noticeable symptoms. It’s vital to educate more people about preventative eye health and the dangers of doing nothing. Here are some easy ways to do that.
- Talk about glaucoma in conversation and on social media.
- Share your personal glaucoma experience with others, and ask others to share.
- Encourage friends and family to get regular comprehensive eye exams.
- Model good behavior by getting your eyes checked, and sharing that you did.
- Direct people to resources where they can learn more about glaucoma risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
The Glaucoma Community
In addition to The Glaucoma Community, some excellent online resources for learning about glaucoma and eye care include:
- Prevent Blindness
- The Glaucoma Research Foundation
- A free educational booklet for the newly-diagnosed (may be requested in English or Spanish)
- Glaucoma Financial Assistance Resources
- Living Well With Low Vision
Helping to spread awareness of glaucoma, and the importance of early detection and intervention, can save the vision and quality of life of millions of people worldwide.
Thank you for participating in Glaucoma Awareness Month!