(Editor’s note: This content is provided by VSP Vision Care, a Next Avenue sponsor.)
It is a new year, and a lot of us have set new fitness and wellness goals, which likely include more exercise and less junk food. But in setting these goals many of us forget about an easy way to improve our overall health: scheduling routine doctors appointments to help us remain healthy for years to come.
One of the most overlooked of these routine appointments is an annual comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist. Everyone knows that optometrists can update your vision prescription, but did you know that they can also help detect serious health conditions like glaucoma?
Although anyone, including babies, can have glaucoma, older people are at a higher risk.
There are many misconceptions about glaucoma because it is a complicated disease. Let’s start by dispelling the most common myths and answering some important questions.
Myth: Glaucoma is a disease that only affects the elderly.
Glaucoma can affect people of all ages — even those with 20/20 vision and no symptoms. Characterized as a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve, glaucoma can result in vision loss and blindness. In fact, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI), glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness.
What’s more, glaucoma can steal your sight without you even noticing it — mainly because there are no symptoms. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision loss, so if you have glaucoma you may not notice any changes in your sight until significant vision is lost.
The NEI reports that as much as 40 percent of vision can be lost without a person noticing it, and experts estimate that half of the 60 million people worldwide who have glaucoma don’t know they have it. Currently, more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma, and the NEI projects that number will reach 4.2 million by 2030 — a 58 percent increase.
These staggering statistics could be lessened if more people had annual comprehensive eye exams and received early treatment. Although there is no cure, early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease because medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss once detected.
Myth: Glaucoma doesn’t run in my family, so I’m not at risk.
While anyone can develop glaucoma at any age, some people are at higher risk than others, and genes are not always to blame. High-risk populations generally include:
- Everyone over age 60
- African-American, Asian and Hispanic people
- People with a family history of glaucoma
- People with diabetes
- People who are severely nearsighted
The NEI reports that a comprehensive eye exam can reveal additional risk factors such as high eye pressure, thinness of the cornea and abnormal optic nerve anatomy. In some people with certain combinations of these risk factors, medicated eye drops can reduce the risk of developing glaucoma by about half.
What Can I Do Next to Protect Myself?
Schedule an eye exam today. Taking control of your vision care can help reduce the negative impact of glaucoma and other serious health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Be sure to discuss your family history with your eye doctor. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, it has been shown that siblings of persons diagnosed with glaucoma have a significantly increased risk of having glaucoma.
How Can I Protect Friends and Family?
If you have glaucoma, don’t keep it a secret. Let your family know that they are at an increased risk and urge them to get annual eye exams.
What If I Don’t Have Vision Care Insurance?
VSP® Vision Care has have you covered. You can get the quality coverage you need with a VSP® Individual Vision Plan — a low-cost option to ensure you get a comprehensive eye exam annually. You will have access to the largest network of independent doctors, coverage for prescription lenses and covered enhancements like progressives. To learn more and enroll today, visit www.GetVSPDirect.com or call 877-988-4746 to speak to one of our customer care representatives.
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