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Glaucoma is becoming more common

  • 2 Min To Read
  • 10 months ago

Glaucoma, an eye condition that can lead to irreversible blindness, is becoming a silent disorder among older individuals worldwide, according to ophthalmologists. The disease often shows no symptoms until it reaches its late stages, making early detection and treatment crucial. By 2050, the number of people with glaucoma is expected to surge by over 200%, highlighting the urgent need for heightened awareness and advanced treatment strategies.

Glaucoma is currently the second leading cause of blindness globally, affecting around 3 million people in the United States alone. Shockingly, half of those affected are unaware of their condition, as glaucoma's stealthy nature allows it to develop gradually without noticeable symptoms. Recent research conducted by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden revealed that 5% of 560 70-year-olds had the disease, and half of them were unaware of it prior to the study.

Late-stage symptoms of glaucoma may include patchy blind spots in peripheral and central vision. Many people mistakenly attribute these symptoms to age-related clumsiness, but proper treatment can slow the progression of the disease. Glaucoma occurs when pressure within the eye increases, causing damage to the optic nerve. If left untreated, glaucoma can result in partial vision loss or complete blindness.

While various types of glaucoma exist, primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is the most common in the United States. It disproportionately affects Black individuals, who are six times more likely than White individuals to experience advanced vision loss from the disease. Glaucoma treatments range from eyedrops to laser treatments to surgery, all aimed at reducing eye pressure. Regular eye exams, particularly for individuals over the age of 60, those with a family history of glaucoma, and people with diabetes, are crucial for early detection and treatment.

Access to eye specialists and the slow development of glaucoma symptoms pose significant challenges. To address these issues, the University of Pennsylvania has hosted free glaucoma screening programs for Black residents, as they are at higher risk. Several organizations also offer access to free glaucoma screening. Glaucoma testing can be done during a regular eye exam and usually involves painless and quick procedures, such as dilating the pupil and measuring corneal thickness.

It is important for individuals to seek regular eye exams and not wait until symptoms arise, as late-stage symptoms indicate significant vision loss. Increased awareness, early detection, and timely treatment are vital in addressing the rising prevalence of glaucoma and preventing irreversible blindness.

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