It’s January — do you know what that means? That’s right – it’s National Glaucoma Awareness Month! According to the Richmond Register, glaucoma diagnoses are rising on a national level. Because of that, it is imperative to not only raise awareness of glaucoma but to highlight the need for additional diagnostic and therapeutic options.
To begin, let’s take a look at what glaucoma is. This term refers to a group of conditions characterized by a buildup of ocular pressure and progressive optic nerve damage. Normally, the optic nerve transmits images to your brain. However, as the optic nerve becomes damaged, vision loss occurs. People with glaucoma may lose up to 40% of their vision without even noticing. There are also multiple forms of glaucoma. While some (primary open-angle) are not rare, there are rare forms, such as congenital or neovascular glaucoma, Irido corneal endothelial syndrome, and pseudoexfoliation syndrome. Noting which type of glaucoma is occurring is crucial, as symptoms and severity often vary between forms.
Altogether, there are a number of risk factors associated with developing glaucoma. These include:
- Age. The eye’s drainage system begins to work less effectively the older we get. For this reason, those affected are usually aged 60+ (although it can occur in those of other ages).
- Race and Ethnicity. Those of Hispanic, African-American, and Asian descent have a heightened risk.
- Family history. You are at a heightened risk if others in your family have also received a diagnosis.
- Corneal thickness. The thinner the cornea, the higher the risk.
- Nearsightedness. Also known as myopia, nearsightedness increases the risk of developing glaucoma. This is because nearsightedness causes the ocular nerve to be increasingly vulnerable to eye pressure.
To learn more about potential risk factors, take a look at this helpful primer from the Mayo Clinic.
Some common symptoms include:
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Eye pain and redness
- Nausea and vomiting
- “Hazy” eyes (in infants)
- Blurred vision
- Seeing “halos” appear around lights
Raising Awareness for National Glaucoma Awareness Month
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, an estimated 4.2 million Americans will have glaucoma by 2030 — just 8 years away! Without treatment, those with this condition may also completely lose their vision. In fact, glaucoma is currently believed to be the 2nd highest cause of blindness on a global scale.
So how can you get checked, as well as raise awareness? Here are a few helpful ideas below:
- Get your eyes looked at. That’s right, regular eye exams can be extremely helpful in ensuring your ocular health. This is especially important if you have any risk factors. Doctors will be able to take a look at your eyes and ensure that everything is working as it should be. Additionally, eye exams can help detect early disease signs or symptoms.
- Start a discussion. Take time to talk to your friends, family members, and others about eye health. You can also share information, stories, or resources on social media! To do so, use the hashtag #NationalGlaucomaAwarenessMonth or #GlaucomaAwareness.
- Get educated. The GRF offers a FREE 40-page booklet on living with glaucoma. You can request a copy here.
- Find ways to get involved in your community and raise awareness. If you need ideas on how to get started, there are a number of exciting ideas (from fundraisers to shopping for a cause) here.