January is Glaucoma Consciousness Month. To be taught extra about this illness, which impacts thousands and thousands of Individuals, I reached out to Dr. Marlene R. Moster, a board-certified glaucoma doctor at Wills Eye Hospital and a professor of ophthalmology at Sidney Kimmel Medical Faculty at Thomas Jefferson College. Dr. Moster answered my questions through e mail.
The transcript has been edited for readability and size.
HealthyWomen: What’s glaucoma?
Marlene R. Moster: Glaucoma is a illness that causes blindness. Three million folks in the USA have glaucoma, and half are unaware that they’ve the illness. It’s the main explanation for blindness worldwide and sadly is usually a progressive illness. Early intervention focuses on discount of the strain inside the eye. It is all about strain, particularly intraocular strain (IOP). An excessive amount of strain within the eye squeezes the optic nerve and slowly robs us of our sight. That is most frequently painless. Medical administration succeeds in decreasing IOP in a big proportion of sufferers, nonetheless, a smaller proportion might require both laser or surgical intervention to manage the illness.
HealthyWomen: How is glaucoma identified?
Marlene R. Moster: Glaucoma is identified with a full eye examination, which incorporates testing imaginative and prescient, measuring eye strain, wanting on the eye’s drainage angle, analyzing the optic nerve for injury, testing peripheral imaginative and prescient, taking an image and measurement of the optic nerve and measuring the thickness of the cornea.
HealthyWomen: Who’s susceptible to getting glaucoma?
Marlene R. Moster: Whereas there are a lot of subtypes of glaucoma, the largest danger issue for the most typical kind of glaucoma (main open-angle glaucoma) is a household historical past of the illness. In case your dad and mom or siblings have been ever identified with glaucoma, it is vitally vital so that you can have common evaluations and testing to observe the well being of your eyes. Further teams who could also be at elevated danger are these of African American, Asian or Hispanic descent, folks with a historical past of eye trauma, folks with skinny central corneas, these taking steroid-based medicines and folks with autoimmune issues or poorly managed diabetes.
Anybody with the next than regular eye strain also needs to be adopted over time to observe for any proof of glaucomatous injury to the optic nerve. It needs to be famous that merely having excessive eye strain alone doesn’t mechanically imply you’ve gotten glaucoma, however you’re at a a lot increased danger for having the illness.
HealthyWomen: Why is glaucoma extra prevalent in African American and Latino populations than with Caucasians?
Marlene R. Moster: The explanations for this usually are not fully clear. The elevated danger in these populations is regarded as due, partly, to genetic components and variations in anatomical construction of the optic nerve. A wholesome optic nerve is crucial for good imaginative and prescient. It’s effectively established that glaucoma is extra aggressive within the African American and Latino populations. It presents at a youthful age and with extra visible loss. As a result of the visible loss is painless, sufferers current late within the illness. African Individuals are six occasions extra probably to go blind, which is why early analysis is crucial.
HealthyWomen: Is there something one can do to decrease one’s danger?
Marlene R. Moster: The perfect line of protection is to have a complete, dilated eye examination, particularly when you have a number of danger components, equivalent to rising age over 40, excessive eye pressures, a household historical past of glaucoma, very excessive or very low blood strain, excessive nearsightedness or diabetes. Sustaining a wholesome life-style that features common train and a nutritious weight loss plan can also be vital.
HealthyWomen: Is it an age-related illness?
Marlene R. Moster: The chance of growing main open-angle glaucoma does improve with age, notably after age 60. Nonetheless, we all know that sure populations, notably these of African American or Afro-Caribbean descent, can start to indicate indicators of optic nerve damage from glaucoma a lot earlier in life. Whereas there are types of glaucoma which may have an effect on infants and youngsters, fortunately these subtypes are pretty uncommon.
HealthyWomen: How is my total well being associated to my danger of growing glaucoma?
Marlene R. Moster: That is an space of energetic investigation, and we’re nonetheless studying about how systemic well being standing impacts the well being of our eyes with respect to glaucoma. Some research have proven that these with increased blood strain, in addition to diabetics, may be at an elevated danger of glaucoma, whereas others have thought-about a increased physique mass index (BMI) to probably be protecting towards some types of glaucoma. Whereas the proof stays combined, the recommendation I give to my sufferers at the moment is to proceed to take excellent care of your whole physique, with emphasis on a well-balanced weight loss plan and common train.
HealthyWomen: How typically do I must get screened for glaucoma?
Marlene R. Moster: The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends that, in case you are underneath 40 with no danger components, you’ve gotten an entire eye examination each 5 to 10 years. If you’re older than 40, that frequency will increase to as soon as each two to 4 years, and over age 65 yearly exams are beneficial. As soon as you’re screened, relying in your examination and danger components, your physician can decide the frequency of required follow-up.
HealthyWomen: What if I haven’t got imaginative and prescient insurance coverage?
Marlene R. Moster: If this can be a concern, examine your native hospital for upcoming well being gala’s and screening applications. Usually eye exams are included at these periods, however take into account they don’t substitute a skilled eye specialist. There’s a program known as EyeCare America sponsored by the AAO, which gives free eye exams for individuals who qualify. Moreover, if a affected person requires glaucoma surgical procedure however is uninsured, underinsured or has restricted monetary sources, the American Glaucoma Society can facilitate the surgical procedure by their AGS Cares program.
Most massive hospital methods even have monetary counseling out there to assist discover a cost-effective answer to getting the care you want. Additionally bear in mind, whereas the preliminary value of an examination could appear costly, glaucoma doesn’t go away when ignored. The price of shedding your imaginative and prescient is far larger!
HealthyWomen: What would you say to ladies who’re afraid of glaucoma?
Marlene R. Moster: Glaucoma is a daunting phrase. Folks typically consider blindness. Nonetheless, as with many continual illnesses, early detection and therapy are the keys to profitable administration. I’ve seen many sufferers who, as soon as they confront this illness, notice they’re those who’re in management, and that’s an empowering factor.