January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, a time to spread information on a leading cause of irreversible blindness. Approximately, 60 million people worldwide have glaucoma, and around 4.5 million of those individuals are blind as a direct result of this disease.
What is glaucoma?
This sight-stealing eye disease can affect people of all ages but typically affects those middle-aged and older. The loss of sight comes from damage to the optic nerve. There are two main types of glaucoma: primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) and angle-closure glaucoma, which are marked by an increase in pressure inside the eye. Secondary glaucoma occurs when another disease causes increased eye pressure but also results in optic nerve damage.
While there is currently no cure for the disease, there are medications and surgeries that can reduce or prevent further vision loss. In order to retain as much vision as possible, early detection is imperative.
Importance of routine eye exams
Most vision plans cover a routine eye exam every year or every other year. Regular eye exams are considered the first line of defense against eye disorders like inflammation, chronic dry eye, and glaucoma. One of the pre-exam tests includes non-contact tonometry (NCT), which uses a puff of air to measure the pressure inside the eye. The air puff test is typically the best way to detect glaucoma, as the disease has no obvious symptoms.
Experts estimate around half of the individuals who have glaucoma are unaware since about 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing. Therefore, taking advantage of your vision plan’s covered exams can allow you to stay healthier and detect eye disorders earlier.