January is world Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in America and in the world, more prevalent in the African American and Hispanic ethnic groups.
More than 3 million Americans are living with glaucoma, with 2.7 million being age 40 and older, diagnosed with the most common form of Open-Angle Glaucoma. There are few to no symptoms in early stages, but the disease eventually leads to damage of the optic nerve causing vision loss and eventually irreversible blindness.
In 2020, there were 80 million people worldwide reported to have Glaucoma, and this number is expected to increase to 111 million by 2040. A significant deficit to the American health care system at 2.86 billion in costs and productivity losses.
African American and those of Hispanic descent are the leading groups affected. Open-Angle Glaucoma is 3 to 4 times more prevalent in African Americans than for Hispanics or Caucasians, and 15 times more likely to cause blindness. The prevalence of glaucoma rises more rapidly in the Hispanic population of those the age of 65 and older.
There are 2 main types of Glaucoma: Open-Angle Glaucoma and Angle-Closure Glaucoma.
Open-Angle: The most common form that affects 95 percent of individuals, initially has no symptoms. At some point your peripheral vision (side vision) is lost and without treatment, an individual can lose all their eyesight and become legally blind.
Angle-Closure: There are two forms, acute and chronic. Acute symptoms develop suddenly, and chronic symptoms take longer for the patient to realize that they were affected by the condition. Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma occurs when the normal flow of fluid in the eye has been blocked. Symptoms may include severe pain, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision and a rainbow halo appearing over light. Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately or blindness can result in a matter of one or two days. With Chronic Angle-Closure Glaucoma, the progress is slower and can produce damage without symptoms and is the form that is the most common.
How do you diagnose glaucoma? An eye doctor, or an Ophthalmologist, performs tests to detect the condition. High risk patients should have regular dilated pupil eye examination, and visual field test every one to two years or as directed by their medical doctor. Some studies have shown that half of the patients living with Glaucoma are not even aware that they have the condition. Early detection is key to early diagnosis and prevention.
Potential Risk factors for Open-Angle Glaucoma
- Eye Pressure
- Race and Ethnicity
- Family History
- Corneal Thickness
- Severe Nearsightedness (Myopia)
- Diabetes and Blood Pressure
- Eye Surgery or Injury
- Use of Corticosteroids – eye drops, inhalers, creams
Glaucoma is a serious condition because once it is advanced, there is not much that can be done. There is no cure for glaucoma.
Treatments for Open-Angle Glaucoma include medicated eye drops that help eye fluid drain more effectively or produce less fluid, laser surgery, or conventional surgery. There is new treatment research being conducted that focuses on lowering the pressure inside the eye, finding medications to protect and preserve the optic nerve from the damage that causes the vision loss and degenerative factors.
The average direct cost of Glaucoma treatment is from 623 dollars per year in the early stages to 2500 dollars per year for patients in the end stages of the condition. Currently, there is no cure for the disease; however, early diagnosis and treatment can control the progression.
Dr. Pierre-Pierre encourages getting a screening if you feel like there is something going wrong with your vision, there is new loss. He advises to go see a doctor, to make sure it is not Glaucoma or the advancing of the disease.
If you have questions or need further assistance, please reach out to the Hobe Sound Primary Care office at 772-932-9310 or the website www.hobesoundprimarycare.com.
Walk-ins are also welcome for locals. Looking forward to being of service.
Next topic will cover Cervical concerns.