SAVVY SE­NIOR

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - HEALTH2 - BY JIM MILLER Jim Miller is edi­tor of the Savvy Se­nior. Send your se­nior ques­tions to Savvy Se­nior, P.O. Box 5443, Nor­man, OK 73070, or visit www. savvy­se­nior.org.

QUES­TION: What are the warn­ing signs for glau­coma? My 65-year-old brother lost some of his vi­sion be­cause of it but never had a clue any­thing was wrong. Could I be at risk, too?

AN­SWER: It’s called the “silent thief of sight” for a rea­son. With no early warn­ing signs or pain, most peo­ple who have glau­coma don’t re­al­ize it un­til their vi­sion be­gins to de­te­ri­o­rate. Here’s what you should know.

Glau­coma is a group of eye dis­eases that can dam­age the op­tic nerve and cause vi­sion loss and blind­ness if it’s not treated. This typ­i­cally hap­pens be­cause the flu­ids in the eye don’t drain prop­erly, caus­ing in­creased pres­sure in the eye­ball.

There are two main types of glau­coma, but the most com­mon form that typ­i­cally af­fects older peo­ple is called open-an­gle glau­coma. This dis­ease de­vel­ops very slowly when the eye’s drainage canals be­come clogged over time, lead­ing to blind spots in the pe­riph­eral or side vi­sion. By the time you no­tice it, the dam­age is per­ma­nent.

Are you at-risk?

It’s es­ti­mated that more than 3 mil­lion Amer­i­cans have glau­coma, but that num­ber is ex­pected to surge to more than 4 mil­lion by 2030. If you an­swer “yes” to any of the fol­low­ing ques­tions, you’re at in­creased risk of de­vel­op­ing it.

Are you African-Amer­i­can, His­panic/Latino Amer­i­can or Asian-Amer­i­can?

Are you over age 60?

Do you have an im­me­di­ate fam­ily mem­ber with glau­coma?

Do you have di­a­betes, heart dis­ease, high blood pres­sure, mi­graines or ex­treme near­sight­ed­ness?

Have you had an eye in­jury? Have you used cor­ti­cos­teroids (for ex­am­ple, eye drops, pills, in­halers and creams) for long pe­ri­ods of time?

What to do

Early de­tec­tion is the key to guard­ing against glau­coma. So if you’re age 40 or older and have any of the risk fac­tors (es­pe­cially if you’re African-Amer­i­can), get a com­pre­hen­sive eye ex­am­i­na­tion ev­ery year or two. Or, if you no­tice some loss of pe­riph­eral vi­sion, get to the eye doc­tor right away.

If you are a Medi­care ben­e­fi­ciary, an­nual eye ex­am­i­na­tions are cov­ered for those at high risk for glau­coma. Or if you don’t have vi­sion cov­er­age, check out EyeCare Amer­ica, a na­tional pro­gram that pro­vides free glau­coma eye ex­ams and doesn’t have in­come re­quire­ments. Visit EyeCareAmer­ica.org or call (877) 887-6327 to learn more.

Al­though there’s no cure for glau­coma, most cases can be treated with pre­scrip­tion eye drops, which re­duce eye pres­sure and can pre­vent fur­ther vi­sion loss. It can­not, how­ever, re­store vi­sion al­ready lost from glau­coma. If eye drops don’t work, your doc­tor may rec­om­mend oral med­i­ca­tion, laser treat­ments, in­ci­sional surgery or a com­bi­na­tion of these meth­ods.

For more in­for­ma­tion on glau­coma, visit the Na­tional Eye In­sti­tute at NEI.nih.gov and the Glau­coma Re­search Foun­da­tion at Glau­coma.org.

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