Dr. Emeline Ramanaden, Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center Eye Center Service Chief, contributed to information in this article.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide and approximately 3 million Americans are diagnosed with the diseases, but half of people don’t know they have glaucoma because it is often asymptomatic. The key to preventing vision loss caused by glaucoma is to understand the associated risks, how to prevent the diseases, and what treatments are available to manage glaucoma.
Fast Facts About Glaucoma
- Glaucoma is a group of diseases that cause damage to the optic nerves and may result in vision loss and blindness.
- The most common form of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma, which is characterized by increased eye pressure.
- When fluid in the front of the eyes builds up, it increases the pressure in the eyes, ultimately damaging the optic nerves. The optic nerves are what transmit visual images from the outside world to your brain, so damage to the nerves can result in loss of eyesight.
- Glaucoma is usually asymptomatic, so patients don’t know they have it. It also causes visual field loss that moves from the outside in, so patients often can’t tell they’re losing vision until they end up with a small central tunnel of vision.
- There is no cure for glaucoma, but early intervention may preserve vision and prevent further damage.
Understanding Your Risk
- Family history of glaucoma is one of the largest risk factors.
- While anyone can get glaucoma, for Veterans over 60 years old, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness.
- Certain hypertension medications and obstructive sleep apnea can affect glaucoma.
- People with diabetes are twice as likely to get glaucoma than people without diabetes.
- African Americans are six-to-eight times more likely to develop glaucoma than other populations.
Prevention is Key
The Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) Eye Center offers a multitude of services intended to prevent and detect diseases like glaucoma in eligible Veterans.
- Veterans eligible for benefits through the VA are offered complete vision services with comprehensive eye exams for eyeglass prescriptions and general and preventative eye health.
- Medical management of diseases like glaucoma, ocular inflammation, and minor eye injuries.
- Low-vision services for conditions like macular degeneration that can’t be corrected by glasses, surgery, or medication with the inclusion of assistive devices.
- Special eye exams for diabetic patients.
- Contact lens services are also available.
Managing and Treating Glaucoma
- Glaucoma caught early through routine eye screening can often be treated with prescription eye drops.
- Veterans with more complex glaucoma can be referred to an in-house specialist for further evaluation and intervention.
- Advanced glaucoma can be treated through minimally invasive procedures and surgeries.
For more information about Cincinnati VAMC Eye Center services or to schedule an appointment, Veterans should call 513-559-3599. No referrals are needed to schedule routine eyecare services.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Don’t Let Glaucoma Steal Your Sight! (2020): Don’t Let Glaucoma Steal Your Sight! | CDC
 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Glaucoma—Why Veterans need regular eye exams (2019): Glaucoma – Why Veterans need regular eye exams - VAntage Point