VA Palo Alto Health Care System
VAPAHCS Raises Awareness for Glaucoma in January
January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, which is the best time to remind all Veterans to take preventative measures to maintain good eye health. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. As one of the leading causes of blindness, glaucoma affects more than three million people in America and more than 280,000 Veterans. It is also known as the "sneaky thief of sight" because a person may not be aware that they have glaucoma and have lost a significant amount of vision irreversibly before they are diagnosed and treated.
What is glaucoma?
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause progressive and irreversible damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve is similar to a cable with millions of connections, carrying images from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma can gradually steal sight without warning. Characteristically, the loss of vision is in the peripheral vision, but if untreated and uncontrolled, the vision loss progresses to “tunnel-vision,” and can lead to total loss of vision in end-stage glaucoma.
There are two main types of glaucoma: primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. They are determined by the anatomy of the patient’s eye and treatment is dependent on the type of glaucoma. Secondary glaucoma is the result of another disease that causes or contributes to increased eye pressure that may damage the optic nerve.
Regular Eye Screening is Important
Dr. Patricia Ferrell, an ophthalmologist who specializes in glaucoma treatment at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, recommends everyone to have your eyes screened regularly, especially if you are at high risk for glaucoma. High risks include a family history of glaucoma, being African-American, and aging.
“Having your eyes dilated is an important part of your eye exam, which can help to detect glaucoma early,” says Dr. Ferrell.
While more common among older adults, glaucoma can occur at any age for various genetics or disease-related reasons or from trauma. Early diagnosis and good follow-up in those who have glaucoma or are suspected of having glaucoma are key ways to maintaining vision and preventing permanent loss of vision from glaucoma.
How Does VAPAHCS Contribute to Glaucoma Awareness and Treatment?
VAPAHCS offers glaucoma treatment along with general and other specialized care within Optometry and Ophthalmology services.
According to Dr. Ferrell, the VAPAHCS services are able to provide full care for the various types of glaucoma. This can be difficult for patients dependent on the private sector to obtain due to costs. However, at VAPAHCS, treatment options are available to the Veteran without worrying if the patient can afford them. This is usually true for many VAPAHCS services because issues of dealing with insurance companies or copays are either minimal or non-existent for most Veterans.