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The Sneak Thief of Sight

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I grew up in a house that was filled with music. At dinner time I particularly enjoyed the music of Ray Charles.  His seemingly effortless mashup of gospel, blues and some deeply personal rhythm really spoke to me.

Ray Charles was from north Florida and so am I.   He lost his vision at the age of six; his blindness was caused by glaucoma.  

We bring up glaucoma today as January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month.  Glaucoma has another alias, the “silent sight thief”.  Vision loss of aging or ailing loved one can impact mobility, enjoyments like reading and movies, mental health and independence.  As caregivers, we want to understand more about this treatable, yet currently incurable disease to better prepare and support people we love.

Part of our role as caregivers, is research; we learn to navigate and support our loved ones needs because circumstances change all of the time.  Here's some information on Glaucoma.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma, AKA the ‘The Sneak Thief of Sight’, is a degenerative eye disease. It develops slowly.  It produces no symptoms, and most people don’t know they have it. Glaucoma results from high pressure inside your eyes. Then after some time, it can suddenly cause severe issues with our optic nerve signals and vision loss.  It seemingly comes from nowhere.

Glaucoma causes the pressure in your eyes, called intraocular (IOP) pressure to rise. Once the internal eye pressure reaches a certain level, it presses on the optic nerve and causes irreparable nerve damage.  Our optic nerve sends light signals from the retina to the brain, to interpret the images. When the optic nerve gets damaged, it no longer sends those signals.

Some Glaucoma Stats for Conversation

About 3 million Americans have glaucoma.  Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, and vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible. Currently there is no cure, and everyone is at risk for developing this blinding disease. It is estimated that by 2040, 111 million people worldwide will have glaucoma.

What are some RISKS of glaucoma?

Anyone can get glaucoma, but certain people can be at a higher risk. There are often no early symptoms, which is why 50% of people with glaucoma don't know they have the disease.

  • African Americans over age 40 
  • People over age 60, people with a family history of glaucoma
  • People with diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Currently, women account for 61% of glaucoma cases.

Even though glaucoma is not curable, there are still reliable treatments that can slow or stop the disease progression.  Glaucoma is treated with eye drops, oral medicine, or surgery (or a combination of treatments) to reduce pressure in the eye and prevent permanent vision loss. Prescription eye drops can stop glaucoma from progressing. 

Medicare covers a glaucoma test once a year for people in high-risk groups.

National Glaucoma Awareness Month is also a great opportunity to celebrate the dedicated researchers and physicians working diligently every day to find a cure. It is also a great time to honor those support the ongoing research to discover new treatments and management that improve life for those living with glaucoma.

Thanks to CDC for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 

Reference Docs

In September of 2019 the Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF), a national non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for glaucoma, announced results from a national survey designed to assess the impact of glaucoma on patients and caregivers, as well as to identify their information and support needs.

Findings:

  • Survey findings reveal that glaucoma impacts patients and their caregivers on a daily basis, and that many patients struggle to effectively control their disease.
  • Many worry about loss of vision and independence
  • Nearly two-thirds, 64 %, of patients say the disease impacts their lives on a daily basis
  • Concerns about vision loss are real  in their day to day lives
    • 65% are concerned about affecting driving and mobility
    • 50% worry about their ability to live independently
    • 37% are concerned about their ability to care for themselves
About Glaucoma Research Foundation

Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF) is a national non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for glaucoma. For more than 40 years, Glaucoma Research Foundation has worked to advance sight-saving research and provide essential educational resources for patients. It funds critical research into glaucoma treatment, vision restoration, and a cure for glaucoma. It is also the leading source of information for glaucoma patients and their families.

Glaucoma Support Quick Links:

This image is for you Ray Charles fans. Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

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