Glaucoma affects 70 million people worldwide and more than three million Americans; it is estimated, that half of these individuals are unaware of having Glaucoma. At greatest risk are those with a family history of Glaucoma, ethnic races for those of African and Hispanic heritage, and the Elderly. Other glaucoma risk factors include aging, nearsightedness, previous eye injuries, steroid use, and health conditions including cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and migraine headache.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness. In its most common form, there are no noticeable symptoms. The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination. In honor of Glaucoma Awareness Month Eye Care America, provides a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. This encourages those without insurance to take advantage of its national Glaucoma Eye Care Program. The program offers free glaucoma eye exams for those who are uninsured and considered to be at increased risk for Glaucoma. To find out if you or someone you care about may be eligible to receive a referral for an eye exam, those interested should call 1-800-391-EYES (3937). The help line is open 24 hours a day, every day, year round. All eligible callers receive a referral to one of Eye Care America’s 7,000 volunteer ophthalmologists who provide an examination for glaucoma and initiate treatment if necessary. Uninsured patients receive this care at no charge.
Glaucoma damages the optic nerve, the part of the eye that carries the images we see to the brain. As glaucoma worsens, cells die in the retina — a special, light-sensitive area of the eye — reducing the optic nerve’s ability to relay visual information to the brain. In the most common form of the disease, open-angle glaucoma, peripheral vision usually narrows, and then other blank spots occur in the visual field. Symptoms of the less common but more acutely dangerous form of the disease, closed-angle glaucoma, include blurred vision, severe eye pain and headache, rainbow-colored halos around lights, and nausea and vomiting. Anyone with these symptoms needs to be seen by an eye care specialist right away.
With the start of a New Year, start it with an annual eye exam. Perhaps you have an eye exam scheduled already; if not get one scheduled. Don’t be one of the 50% of individuals estimated to have Glaucoma and not know it. Get an eye exam. There are no excuses with the potential for a free exam if you lack insurance and the resources. Scratch one more “to-do” off your list and get your eyes examined. Stay free of untreated Glaucoma.