It is believed that over 2.2 million Americans, and over 60 million people worldwide, are diagnosed with glaucoma. What is more shocking though, is the fact that an estimated 4 million Americans actually have the disease but half of them simply don’t know it yet.
Though it is a disease that deserves our attention all year long, several eye care organizations dedicate extra effort to raising awareness about glaucoma each January at the start of the New Year. The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) and the Glaucoma Research Foundation both offer an abundance of free information for you to utilize yourself as well as distribute to others in your community to help spread the word. This disease can affect anyone so it is crucial that everyone be informed.
Glaucoma research and awareness is especially important to Going Blind director Joe Lovett because he has been receiving treatment to combat his own declining vision for the past twenty years due to this disease.
What is Glaucoma?
The National Eye Institute explains, “Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the optic nerve in the eye. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form. In this condition, fluid builds up in the front chamber of the eye, and the optic nerve is damaged by the resulting increase in eye pressure. Left untreated, glaucoma can lead to serious vision loss or blindness.”
Glaucoma is often called the thief in the night. There are no symptoms or early warning signs because it typically begins with peripheral side vision loss and thus you don’t notice diminished vision. Once vision is lost, it is lost for good.
With regular comprehensive eye exams, early detection, and new treatments, vision loss due to glaucoma can be dramatically slowed down and prevented. This makes awareness about the disease so incredibly important.
Please spend a few moments this month taking a look at some of these resources compiled here below.
Learn & Share This Month
- Are You At Increased Risk? It is important for everyone to monitor their vision, but it is particularly important to make sure those with increased risk for glaucoma are well monitored: These include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent, people over 60, who have diabetes, family members of those already diagnosed, and people who are severely nearsighted.
- Free Educational Booklet: Request a free booklet from the Glaucoma Research Foundation and register to receive their free newsletter mailed 3 times/year.
- Glaucoma Education Website: A great, easy to navigate, comprehensive website with information about glaucoma, FAQs, facts, tips and questions to ask your doctor, and many other resources.
- Keep Vision in Your Future – Glaucoma Toolkit: After informing yourself on the above website, download this toolkit with helpful information and resource materials to use as teaching tools and distribution material to educate others in your community.
- Don’t Lose Sight of Glaucoma Brochure: NEHEP will send you free copies of this brochure to distribute to anyone who is at risk for glaucoma to help inform them about what they can do to prevent vision loss. Place in waiting rooms, senior centers, local libraries or health fairs in your community.
- Send E-Cards: This is a great way to send family or friends a link to the information provided on the Glaucoma Education website to remind them they should be thinking about this disease.
- Medicare Benefits Card: Inform others about the glaucoma and diabetic eye disease benefit under Medicare with free copies of this card you can place around your community. Developed by the National Eye Institute with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, it contains helpful information about benefit eligibility.
- The American Optometric Association: Provides additional information about Glaucoma Awareness Month and specifically addresses Medicare eligible patients providing them with a free hotline for information about finding eye care professionals.
- Glaucoma Eye Exam in 2012: EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology offers free glaucoma eye exams for those who are uninsured and at increased risk for glaucoma. Find out about eligibility.
- NEHEP Program Page: More resources and ways to spread the word from the NEI
- Glaucoma Research Foundation – Glaucoma Awareness Month Information
- Prevent Blindness America – Glaucoma Learning Center
- Glaucoma Foundation – About Glaucoma