January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Do you see a good new year ahead? Make sure you literally do – by scheduling an eye exam as soon as you feel comfortable about going out and visiting an eye doctor.

Getting regular eye examinations is just as important as preventive healthcare for the rest of your body – you want to spot potential problems as early as possible. The Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF) sponsors Glaucoma Awareness Month every January to raise awareness of what they call the “sneak thief of sight.”

When it comes to getting eye examinations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) notes on its website, “Rest assured that eye care clinics follow strict hygiene and disinfection guidelines to keep you safe.” Besides limiting the number of people in the clinic and requiring masks, the clinic may take your temperature before you enter and use other safety precautions.

Of course, deciding when to go is a personal decision – unless you have sudden-onset symptoms of angle-closure glaucoma. According to the AAO, those symptoms may include:

  • Your vision is suddenly blurry
  • You have severe eye pain
  • You see rainbow-colored rings or halos around lights

These symptoms may signal “a a true eye emergency, and you should call your ophthalmologist right away or you might go blind,” says the AAO website.

The most common type of glaucoma – primary open-angle glaucoma – presents no symptoms, and that’s why it’s called the “sneak thief of sight.” “As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing,” reports the Glaucoma Research Foundation. Unfortunately, once vision is lost to glaucoma, it’s permanent.

Facts about glaucoma

Here are some key facts about primary open-angle glaucoma from the National Institutes of Health:

  • Who gets it: Anyone can get glaucoma, but you are at higher risk if you are over age 60, are African American or Hispanic/Latino and over age 40, or have a family history of glaucoma.
  • Symptoms: At first, glaucoma doesn’t usually have any symptoms. That’s why half of people with glaucoma don’t even know they have it. Over time, you may slowly lose vision, usually starting with your side (peripheral) vision — especially the part of your vision that’s closest to your nose.
  • Treatment: Treatments include prescription eye drops, laser treatment and surgery. If you have glaucoma, it’s important to start treatment right away. While it won’t undo any damage to your vision, treatment can stop it from getting worse.

Your Windward Life Care home care aide can transport you to your eye examination if you need urgent care, or once you feel comfortable going for a non-urgent exam. Be sure to make a plan – don’t let glaucoma slowly steal your vision!

This article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Talk to your ophthalmologist about eye care.