Don’t be one of the nearly 80,000 Americans who goes blind from a treatable condition

Eye health matters

Have you had an eye exam recently? (Anna Shvets/Pexels stock image)

How often do you hear about glaucoma?

Probably not often enough, considering how serious the condition can become if it’s left untreated.

You’ve likely gotten the memo to keep up with your regularly scheduled eye exams -- yes, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues on; eye doctors have said it’s safe -- and that advice comes for good reason: If a condition like glaucoma is identified and treated in time, vision loss can be prevented.

We mention glaucoma specifically considering it’s the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, according to Henry Ford Health System. In fact, every year, almost 80,000 Americans go blind from glaucoma -- and another million are at risk of losing their vision because they have undiagnosed glaucoma.

So make sure you keep those eye appointments on the books!

If we’ve piqued your curiosity about glaucoma, here’s some more relevant information.

Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the pressure inside the eye rises to a point where it damages the optic nerve – the nerve at the back of the eye that carries visual information to the brain – and impairs vision, HFHS’s website explains.

As for what causes glaucoma, here’s how it works: The pressure increases in the eye, because the passages that normally allow fluid within the eye to drain become blocked. As a result, fluid collects in the eye; pressure on the optic nerve increases (an eye injury also can cause the pressure to rise); the nerve fibers in the optic nerve are damaged by this pressure; and the amount and quality of information sent to the brain decreases, and a loss of vision occurs.

Health officials estimate that more than 2 million people in the U.S. live with glaucoma.

The condition takes place more frequently in people older than age 40.

As the population gets older, we might see more and more cases of glaucoma.

Individuals who are nearsighted or who have diabetes may be at greater risk, and there is a hereditary tendency for the development of the disease, health experts said.

You may be at risk for glaucoma if you have one or more of these risk factors:

  • Elevated intraocular pressure
  • Family history
  • African-American or Hispanic race (open-angle glaucoma is much more common amongst African-Americans)
  • Older age
  • Thin corneas

If it’s left untreated, side vision and central vision will be destroyed and blindness may occur, Henry Ford’s website said. A regular eye examination, including testing for glaucoma, is an important preventive eye care practice for people 35 or older, even without symptoms, according to the site.

And now you know.

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