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Glaucoma: The Invisible Disease

Glaucoma-Awareness-Month

January is Glaucoma awareness month!

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Let us take a look at the disease called Glaucoma that affects the lives of millions of people around the world. And what are the ways to combat and prevent Glaucoma from affecting our lives as well.

A disease that is often taken for granted, GLAUCOMA affects more than 3 million Americans. Yet, only half of these people know that they have the disease. According to the World Health Organization, Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness around the world after cataracts. In fact, in the U.S. alone, it accounts for 12 percent of all cases of blindness which translates to more than 120,000 Americans going blind because of glaucoma. Around the world, it is estimated that more than 60 million people suffers from glaucoma.

So, what is Glaucoma? By definition, “GLAUCOMA is a condition of increased pressure within the eyeball, causing gradual loss of sight”.

Glaucoma slowly destroys the optic nerve at the back of the eye resulting in increased pressure inside the eye that blocks the circulation of its drainage. In some cases, inadequate blood supply to the optic nerve fibers due to its weak structure because of the disease will do most of the damage.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

Well, sad to say, glaucoma has no symptoms and the damage that it causes is irreversible. It can be treated to slow down the damage process but it cannot recover what has been lost.  A person who has this disease may never know that he is suffering from glaucoma until he starts to notice the gradual deterioration of his vision. The best remedy is by detecting the problem as early as possible so that treatment can be made and damage to the patients’ vision will be as minimal as possible.

Who are at risk from glaucoma?

Anyone can get glaucoma. But a person has a higher chance of getting this disease if he has

  • A family history of glaucoma
  • Diabetes
  • Migraine
  • Short sightedness
  • Long sightedness
  • Eye injuries
  • Past or present use of cortisone drugs (steroids)

If you are in this group, then you should immediately have your eyes checked. It is recommended that you have your eyes checked for glaucoma before the age of 40.

Glaucoma surveys

When the “Glaucoma Research Foundation conducted a survey, they found out that out of the 1,000 people they interviewed, 74 percent said that they have their eyes checked at least once in two years. While 61 percent are receiving a dilated eye exam to detect if they are positive with glaucoma. The foundation also found out that least 16 percent of the interviewed African Americans have no idea what glaucoma is, and 9 percent of the interviewed Caucasians also have no idea about this disease.

In 2002, another survey was also conducted by the group “Prevent Blindness America”. And in their survey, they found out that aside from cancer and heart disease, blindness ranks third among people’s major fear. Also, only 20 percent of the surveyed people know what glaucoma is. Fifty percent has heard about glaucoma and 30 percent never heard of glaucoma in their lives.

The Economic impact of glaucoma

The economic impact of Glaucoma to the people affected by this disease around the world should never be overlooked. In North America, more than 10 million patients visit physicians every year to have themselves checked if they are positive with glaucoma. The lost income tax revenues and health care expenditures that the U.S government shoulder is estimated to be more than $1.5 billion annually.

Treating Glaucoma

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There are many ways to treat glaucoma. Eye drops, pills, laser surgery, traditional surgery, or combination of these methods are just some of the ways to treat glaucoma. Even if the vision that was lost due to glaucoma is irreversible, glaucoma can still be treated and managed if it is detected early. The good news is, when glaucoma is properly addressed and treated, patients with glaucoma have a great chance of not losing their sights.

So if you think you have glaucoma, it is best that you consult a physician that has a high understanding and background about the disease. Do not wait until you have lost much of your vision before you go for an eye check up. As they always say, “Prevention is always better than cure”.

Sources:
Glaucoma Australia
Glaucoma Research Foundation

Help Spread Awareness – Wear a Glaucoma Awareness Bracelet

Awareness bracelets can help bring awareness to a greater number of people about the risks of glaucoma. The main color for glaucoma awareness is green.

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