Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world and the leading cause of blindness in African American and Hispanic populations in the United States. In fact, in Ohio alone, there are 93,480 residents ages 40 and older who have the disease, according to a study by Prevent Blindness America and the National Eye Institute (NEI). As a person ages, the risk for developing glaucoma increases.
Today, glaucoma costs the U.S. economy $2.86 billion every year in direct medical costs for outpatient, inpatient and prescription drug services. And, glaucoma patients between the ages of 40 and 64 years of age can expect to pay more than $3,000 annually per person for those services. For those 65 and older, the annual costs jump to $5,243 per person.
“Because of our aging baby boomer population, we know that the number of Ohioans with eye problems will increase significantly,” said Sherry Williams, President & CEO of Prevent Blindness Ohio. “We urge everyone to make regular visits to their eye care professional for comprehensive eye examinations in which the pupil is dilated. Many insurance policies, including Medicare, will cover glaucoma exams for qualified individuals,” Williams added.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes loss of sight by damaging the part of the eye called the optic nerve. This nerve sends information from the eyes to the brain. When the optic nerve is damaged, peripheral vision begins to diminish.
If left untreated, over time, glaucoma may also damage central vision. Unfortunately, once vision is lost to glaucoma, it cannot be restored. Vision loss can be lessened, however, if glaucoma is detected and treated early.
Glaucoma is often called the ‘sneak thief of sight’ because it slowly robs people of their vision without them realizing it. Half of those affected don’t even know the disease is slowly robbing them of sight because glaucoma is often symptom-less. That is why it is important that individuals, especially those with risk factors, get regular, dilated eye exams by an eye doctor.
Everyone is at risk for developing glaucoma. However, some factors that may increase the chance of having the disease include:
Age – The older you are, the greater your risk.
Race – African-Americans have glaucoma four to five times more often than others. African-Americans are also likely to have glaucoma at a younger age.
Family history – If you have a parent, brother or sister with glaucoma, you are more likely to get glaucoma too. If you have glaucoma, your family members should get complete eye exams.
Medical history – Diabetes, previous eye injuries, eye surgery or long-term steroid use can increase your risk of glaucoma.
Other alarming statistics include:
- Glaucoma is six to eight times more likely to occur in African Americans
- African-Americans develop glaucoma at an earlier ageon average, about 10 years earlier than in other ethnic populations
- About four times more likely to cause blindness in African Americans
- A study by the Wilmer Eye Institute and Johns Hopkins University found that open-angle glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among Hispanics
- According to the same study, only 38 percent of Hispanics with glaucoma were aware of their disease
2010 Glaucoma Fact Sheet
Types of Glaucoma and Risk Factors
Prevent Blindness Ohio offers Financial Assistance and Vision Care Resource listings as well as information on Medicare coverage for glaucoma exams. Prevent Blindness Ohio also offers a variety of fact sheets and brochures including a glaucoma “Eye Q” quiz, a glaucoma 17-point checklist and a guide for people who have been diagnosed with the disease.
Materials on glaucoma are available in both English and Spanish by calling 800-301-2020 or by visiting www.pbohio.org
About Prevent Blindness Ohio
Prevent Blindness Ohio, founded in 1957, is Ohio's leading volunteer nonprofit public health organization dedicated to its mission to prevent blindness and preserve sight. We serve all 88 Ohio counties, providing direct services to more than 800,000 Ohioans annually and educating millions of consumers about what they can do to protect and preserve their precious gift of sight.
Prevent Blindness Ohio is an affiliate of Prevent Blindness America, the country's second-oldest national voluntary health organization. For more information or to make a contribution, visit our website at www.pbohio.org or call 800-301-2020.
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