If you think glaucoma only affects seniors, think again. Currently, there are about 3 million people over the age 40 in the U.S. who have glaucoma. There are estimates that by 2030, the number of people with the condition may surpass 4 million. That’s especially concerning because 1) glaucoma is already the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the U.S., 2) many experts estimate that half of the people living with the disease aren’t even aware they have it. Fortunately, preventing its onset could be as simple as regular eye exams.
Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve. Currently, there is nothing to restore vision loss from this disease. Glaucoma is asymptomatic, meaning by the time you may become aware of a vision issue, odds are that there has already been significant irreversible damage, even as much as 60%. One reason why glaucoma is a major health issue is because the majority of adults don’t know that you do not always experience symptoms before you lose vision to eye diseases.
Spending a lot of time in front of computer and handheld screens, or in room or offices with modern LED lighting, can contribute to significant eye strain. Digital devices and newer LED and fluorescent lights emit more wavelengths near the shorter, or bluer, part of the spectrum. High and continual exposure to these wavelengths can cause slow damage to the retina, which may result in problems like age-related macular degeneration later in life.
Once glaucoma has set in, the only way to control it and prevent further vision loss is to lower the pressure within the eye for extended periods of time. Along with limiting your exposure to things that contribute to eye strain (and the regularly administration of eye drops)
there are two commonly accepted procedures to treat glaucoma.
- A type of laser surgery called “Trabeculoplasty” where the eye’s drainage system is changed in a way that fluid is able to pass more easily out of the eye.
- Two different types of laser applications. One is called Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty and the other is called Argon Laser Trabeculoplasty. These are newer laser procedures that use very low levels of energy. Laser energy is applied to the trabecular meshwork (a spongy tissue) which promotes drainage through tissue in the eye. This starts a chemical and biological change in the tissue that results in better drainage of fluid from the eye.
The laser procedures can be as an outpatient surgery. Follow-up exams also are recommended, and patients often need to continue taking medicine after the surgery to keep down the pressure in their eyes.
One of the most important ways you can help take care of your eyes is to go for annual checkups with your eye doctor. Your doctor can run tests to detect the first signs of glaucoma and help you take measures on how to protect your eyes. Remember: you only get one pair and it’s up to you take care of them!
Having an eye doctor monitor if you could be developing glaucoma is just one reason why having vision insurance is essential. Learn about a Vision Plan through your association and AMBA. Visit www.AMBAdentalvision.com or call 866-979-0497.