Everyone is at Risk for Glaucoma

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By Randy Palladino

Glaucoma is among the reasons why eye exams should be a regular part of your preventive health care. Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness, has no symptoms in its early stages. In the United States alone, nearly three million Americans have glaucoma, but only half of them know it. Once glaucoma is detected, steps can be taken to slow its progression, but any vision that’s already been lost cannot be regained. Diagnosis is the first step in preserving your sight.

Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that damage the optic nerve, a cable of nerve fibers in the back of the eye that carries visual information to the brain. This damage, which is irreversible and in most instances goes unnoticed in its early stages, is most often caused by elevated pressure inside the eye. As glaucoma progresses, blind spots develop first in a person’s peripheral (side) vision. A person may notice that they are seeing objects directly in front of them but missing those to the side. As the disease advances, the field of vision continues to narrow until total blindness occurs.

To reduce your risk, make regular vision checkups that include a comprehensive dilated eye exam that allows an eye doctor to view the optic nerve are the best way to detect glaucoma and other vision-robbing conditions before they cause serious damage to your sight. An eye doctor will also measure eye pressure and inspect the drainage angle of the eye. Medicare Part B covers an annual comprehensive dilated eye exam for some people at high risk for glaucoma. The Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America’s Nutrition and Fitness for Laborers program can help Laborers improve dietary and exercise habits that can benefit general physical well-being, including eye health. Your training facility offers this class and can provide this information to you upon request.

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