You’ve probably heard of glaucoma, but many people don’t know how it can affect — and how quickly it can take — your eyesight.
Dr. Zuraida Zainalabidin of Head to Toe Healthcare, PLC, said glaucoma affects more than 3 million Americans, but over half of them don’t know that they have it, according to Prevent Blindness America.
Glaucoma begins by attacking peripheral vision, typically causing objects to appear less clearly. At first, it is possible to compensate by squinting or turning the head to focus better. But be careful. These changes may seem minor, but glaucoma can accelerate quickly, causing eyesight to rapidly and irreversibly deteriorate.
Like many diseases, some factors can increase the risk of developing glaucoma, such as age, race or genetics.
Glaucoma usually affects one in 200 people by age 50, but as many as one in 10 people by age 80. The risk of developing glaucoma is much higher among African Americans: four to five times higher. In fact, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans. Not only do African Americans usually develop glaucoma 10 years earlier than Caucasians, they are also six to 15 times more likely to be blinded by the disease.
Nearly 20 percent of adults have never been to an eye doctor, and more than 60 percent of respondents thought glaucoma was preventable, according to the American Optometric Association’s American Eye-Q survey.
Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but if diagnosed and treated early, it can be controlled. This reinforces the fact that adults need regular, comprehensive eye exams.
Medicare covers annual glaucoma screenings for people considered at heightened risk of developing glaucoma, such as individuals with diabetes, those with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans age 50 and older and Hispanic Americans age 65 and older.