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Eye Exams Are First Line of Defense Against Glaucoma

awareness_logoWhen your insurance lacks vision care it’s not unusual to skip regular eye exams but, if you’re over 40,–please think twice.  Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness, is diagnosed in and prevented through routine eye exams. Outside of an exam, early warning symptoms are generally unnoticeable. Estimates suggest that 2.7 million Americans have glaucoma but only half realize it!  Do you know if you have glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve, a bundle of over a million nerve fibers, connects the eye to the brain. Medical science knows that primary glaucoma diseases, namely open angle and angle-closure glaucomas, involve the rate of  fluid flowing out of the anterior chamber in the front of the eye. When the flow of that nourishing fluid is impeded or slowed eye pressure builds. Why is still unknown though researchers are uncovering clues through genomic research and a major study on African American health. For now, prevention is the only hope of averting vision loss from glaucoma.  Protect your sight. Schedule a dilated eye exam at least every 2 years and learn whether your family history puts you at elevated risk.preview_GlaucomaInfoGraphicEnglish

Glaucoma risk generally increases after 60 however ethnicity, genetics, and other conditions alter risk.  African Americans, for instance, experience 4-8 times greater risk of glaucoma after the age of 40 and Mexican Americans, also at special risk, are least likely to be aware of the condition. When a family member is living with glaucoma our risk increases up to 9 times the average. Hypertension, steroid use, heart disease, hypothyroidism, and diabetes are other concerns driving increased risk. Eye exams are the key to fighting sight loss. Don’t wait until you notice a problem with your vision. If you’re at increased risk, schedule regular annual checkups!

In an interview with glaucoma patient and activist, Sam Polakoff, he was asked why he thought people skipped eye exams.  People may be aware of glaucoma and perhaps even know of a relative who once had it, he explained, but not really take the time to learn about it, understand it, or to learn how it is contained. Polakoff discovered he had glaucoma in a routine eye exam for his near sightedness.  It was a surprise. Though he remembered having a distant relative who had it he never considered himself at risk for glaucoma.

When glaucoma is diagnosed and managed it’s possible to live life reading and seeing well enough to get along though vision will continue to worsen.  Bono, singer in the band U2, recently revealed that he lives with glaucoma. The trademark dark glasses he wears are not a  rock star statement but a way to reduce glare and light sensitivity caused by the condition. Whoopi Goldberg also lives with glaucoma. She uses medical marijuana to control pain from intense headaches caused by her glaucoma.

Stars may be able to parlay their vision problems into cachet but the fact is: glaucoma is incurable. The resulting loss of vision it causes is irreversible. Please prioritize your vision and schedule regular eye exams to give yourself a chance of early diagnosis and successful management should glaucoma strike.

 

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