Monday, January 24, 2011

Take Care of Your Eyes: They're the Only Two You've Got!

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is a word that we hear often, but what is it and how can we prevent it? If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with glaucoma, then what should you expect?

Glaucoma is an eye disease affecting nearly 2.2 million people aged 40 and older. If left untreated, then it can lead to blindness. The eye produces a watery substance that easily drains out of the eye and into the bloodstream. However, in someone with glaucoma, the fluid isn't able to properly drain out of the eye, which results in an increase of pressure inside the eye. Doctors believe that this increase in eye pressure results in damage to the optic nerve, which can inevitably lead to blindness.

Treatment for glaucoma can range from medications to surgery. Medication is typically the first line of defense and can consist of either drops, pills, or ointments. Prescription drugs can either work to reduce the amount of fluid that is produced by the eye or to improve the drainage system in the eye. Laser surgery is another option whereby a doctor uses a laser to make anywhere from 50-100 tiny burns in the eye to open up the drainage system, which reduces pressure inside the eye. In some cases, glaucoma surgery, which is more intense than laser surgery, becomes necessary. In glaucoma surgery, the surgeon either makes a small opening in the white part of the eye to create a new path for the fluid to flow out or inserts an implant to serve as the eye's new drainage system.

If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, it is important to keep an optimistic outlook. Treatment can allow you to live a normal life. If, however, you are experiencing low vision as a result of glaucoma, there are some things that you can do to make things easier for you. Read large-print books. Use a computer with a large screen. Maintain a well-lit environment. Invest in magnifying lenses.

Most of the risk factors (i.e. age, race, and family history) for glaucoma are outside of your control. However, yearly eye exams are important. For high risk individuals, glaucoma screenings are covered at 80% by Medicare. If you are unable to afford a vision screening, there are a number of organizations that can assist you in getting the eye care that you need. Please visit The Glaucoma Learning Center for available resources.

For more information about glaucoma and other eye diseases, please visit Prevent Blindness America or the Glaucoma Research Foundation.

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