Glaucoma is a family of diseases that affects pressure within the eye, damaging the optic nerve. When pressure inside the eye increases, blind spots in peripheral areas of vision may occur. Of all conditions and diseases of the eye, glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States.
Often called the "silent thief" of sight, most forms of glaucoma do not produce symptoms until vision is already severely damaged. But if diagnosed early, the disease can be controlled and permanent vision loss can be prevented.
There several different types of glaucoma including:
Most types of glaucoma cause peripheral vision loss. You can see well in the center, but the edges of vision begin to fade away. Over time, it can even affect central vision and result in total blindness.
The following factors put you at a higher risk to be diagnosed with glaucoma:
• Age: If you’re 65 years old or older, you’re at a higher risk to develop glaucoma.
• Family history: If someone in your family has glaucoma, you’re at a higher risk to develop glaucoma.
• Race: If you’re African-American, you’re four times more likely to develop glaucoma.
• Health: If you have diabetes, you’re more likely to develop glaucoma.
• Eyesight: If you’re nearsighted, you’re more likely to develop glaucoma.
• Corneal thickness: If your corneal thickness is thinner than normal, you’re more likely to develop glaucoma.
Does Medicare Cover Glaucoma Tests?
For those with active glaucoma Medicare covers medical visits and related testing. Medicare Part B may pay for part of an annual glaucoma tests for patients who are considered to be high risk for developing glaucoma.
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Doctors are catching glaucoma earlier, and they're using innovative therapies to preserve vision. In one Mayo Clinic study, they say, blindness probability dropped about 50 percent in a 45-year timespan.
Your doctor might use:
As with many other eye problems, glaucoma can be detected during a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Your exam will include a visual field test, which can help your doctor see if you're starting to lose peripheral vision, and your internal eye pressure will be measured as well.
Once vision is lost, it cannot be restored. Discovering optic nerve damage and vision loss early, through a comprehensive dilated medical exam, is crucial.