By Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, and this year, everyone should get an eye exam, which is the best way to diagnose and prevent optical nerve damage. In 2020, roughly 80 million people worldwide had glaucoma, with more than 3 million of those cases coming from the United States. The number of worldwide cases is expected to exceed 111 million by 2040.
This disease strikes senior citizens at a much higher rate, though everyone is at risk, even infants. Roughly 1 in every 10,000 babies born in the United States has glaucoma.
Glaucoma is prevalent in 3.4% of African Americans compared to 1.7% in Caucasians.
At first, glaucoma doesn’t present any symptoms, which is why half of those with the disease don’t know they have it. However, over time, you may start to lose your vision, typically starting with your peripheral abilities. Without treatment, this can often lead to blindness, making regular eye checkups a must.
There are several risk factors that make one more susceptible to glaucoma:
- Over the age of 60.
- Are African American or Hispanic/Latino and over the age of 40.
- Have a family history of glaucoma.
There currently isn’t a cure for glaucoma, but with early detection and treatment from your health care provider, the disease can be controlled before blindness or lasting damage occurs. Treatments for glaucoma include medications (usually some form of eye drop), laser surgery or conventional surgery.
This year, let’s resolve to keep our eyes healthy and commit to regular checkups. Talk to your primary care provider — like a nurse practitioner — to explore your options and obtain a referral to an eye specialist that is right for you.