Glaucoma remains a leading cause of preventable blindness. It affects more than 2.3 million Americans age 40 and older. Another 2 million do not know they have the disease. January is Glaucoma Awareness Month and knowing your risks for glaucoma can save your sight. Glaucoma can quietly damage the eye and optic nerve even before a person notices vision problems. Such damage cannot be reversed once it occurs.
Top risk factors for glaucoma are:
- Age (65 years and older)
- Elevated eye pressure
- Family history of glaucoma
- African, Asian or Latino ethnicity
- Related health problems, including diabetes, low blood pressure, migraine headaches
For people of any age with symptoms or risks for eye disease, such as glaucoma, Dr. Jason C. Cheung, MD recommends having a comprehensive eye exam to decide on eye exam intervals and other needed care. For adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease, a baseline screening is recommended at age 40—the time when the early stages of age-related eye disorders and vision changes may begin. Based on this screening information we will prescribe how often to return for follow-up exams.
Family support from the first diagnosis can make all the difference, as is true for many chronic illnesses. Family members can help an elder set up a medication schedule that fits his or her daily routine and help him or her learn to self-administer eye drops. Empathic listening and companionship are also important, as studies show depressed or isolated patients are less likely to adhere to treatment.