The Long View: Time to Take Care of Your Eyes

Glaucoma: Take Care of your Eyes

Dr. Vincent Parsons, right, demonstrates a glaucoma screening on Norma Owens. Norma is an optometric assistant at Swope Health.

January is the month designated to raise awareness of glaucoma, one of the leading causes of vision loss and blindness.

Seeing that clean, new calendar makes it a good time to schedule an eye exam and learn more about taking care of your eyes.  At Swope Health, you can call for an appointment with our optical team at 816-923-5800.

Facts About Glaucoma

Vincent Parsons, O.D., Swope Health’s director of optometry, shared some facts about glaucoma:

  • More than 3 million people in the U.S. have glaucoma. Half of the people who have it don’t know they have it.
  • Glaucoma is usually associated with seniors who are age 60 or older, but it can affect anyone at any age.
  • Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans. It’s also prevalent in Hispanic populations.
  • There is no cure for glaucoma, but early identification can slow the progress of the disease.

According to the National Eye Institute, glaucoma actually refers to a group of diseases that affect the optic nerve in the eye. The optic nerve, a bundle of more than a million nerve fibers, connects the retina of the eye with the brain.

“Throughout most of the disease, there are no symptoms and you can’t tell if you have it,” Dr. Parsons said. “That’s why it’s important to have a glaucoma exam.”

The disease is detected through a visual field test, to see if you have lost side vision or peripheral vision. The optometrist also will use a magnifying glass to look for damage to the optic nerve.  Finally, the optometrist will use eye drops to numb your eyes, and perform a test to measure your eye pressure and determine the thickness of your cornea.

Treatment

If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, you may be treated with medicines to lower the pressure in the eyes. These medicines may be in the form of eye drops or pills, and need to be taken regularly to be effective in preventing the disease from progressing. In some cases, surgery is recommended to lower pressure in the eyes.

In advanced or very advanced stages of glaucoma, you gradually lose your peripheral vision – it appears as if you are looking through a tunnel.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number of blind and visually impaired people in the U.S. will double by 2030 as the population ages. Taking care of vision health with a visit to the optometrist can help reduce that number and improve health, wellness and quality of life.

“Glaucoma can occur at any age,” Dr. Parsons said. “If you haven’t had an exam by age 40, it’s a good time to start.”

Why wait? Start now with an eye exam: call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment. 

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