Did you know that glaucoma is the most leading cause of vision loss and blindness? According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, there are more than 3 million people in the US alone, that have this sight-stealing disease. These numbers are only expected to increase in the coming years. The month of January celebrates National Glaucoma Awareness Month to educate the public about this disease, risk factors and treatment. But what is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye condition that progressively damages the eye optic nerves due to buildup of pressure on the nerve. This in turn, causes the eye fluid pressure to rise to more than the normal level of eye fluid. This can result in loss of vision or total blindness. The most common type of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma. This is where the drain structure of the eye (known as trabecular meshwork) looks fine, but fluid does not flow out like it should.

Glaucoma has several risks factors including:

  • Family history.
  • Age; Vision reduces as we age- individuals at the age of 60+ are at a significantly higher risk
  • Race; Africans Americans have at high risk and can develop it as early as an age of forty years
  • Physical injury to the eye
  • Pre-existing chronic disease such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or a thin cornea
  • Excessive use of corticosteroids (or eye drops)

Glaucoma has been referred to as “the sneak thief of sight” because it generally doesn’t have warning symptoms. Unfortunately, most are not diagnosed until it is already in the late stages. However, some symptoms to be aware of may include:

  • Halos (or bright circles) around light
  • An increase of severe eye pain
  • Redness of the eye
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden onset of visual disturbances (ie. double vision, blurred vision, partial blindness)

There is no cure for glaucoma, however, it does not mean it cannot be controlled or prevented. Regular checkups with your eye doctor can help detect early signs of glaucoma. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe medicated eyedrops or surgery.

Taking care of our eyes as we age is just as important as taking care of our health, heart and joints in order to live a healthier and happy life. Some ways to reduce your risk of vision lost can include:

  • Regular checkups
  • Eating healthy foods (ie. Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Citrus Fruits, Almonds, Kale, Spinach, Beans)
  • Wearing sunglasses- highly recommended when outdoors
  • Avoid smoking

Do you have an eye medical insurance plan? Eyemed Vision Benefits has one of the fastest growing vision benefits plan in the US offering affordable coverage for eye exams, eyeglasses and contact lens. They are dedicated to helping members achieve clear and healthy vision by giving them access to diverse and expansive networks across the U.S including independent eye doctors.

The health of our eyes are very important and the government knows it. That’s why the U.S Congress Health appropriation has set $636.8 million including $1 million for vision and eye health and $4 million to address glaucoma. I hope you will be visiting an eye doctor soon.

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