January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month at Prevent Blindness

Prevent Blindness, the nation’s oldest volunteer eye health organization, is joining National Glaucoma Awareness Month in January by offering a variety of free educational and awareness resources to help prevent unnecessary vision loss from one of the world’s leading causes of blindness.

The National Eye Institute defines glaucoma as a group of eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness by damaging a nerve at the back of the eye called the optic nerve. This nerve sends information from the eye to the brain. Usually, glaucoma affects the side vision (peripheral vision) first. Late in the disease, glaucoma may cause “tunnel vision.” In this case, a person can only see straight ahead.

Glaucoma community

Most cases of glaucoma occur in adults, but children may also develop eye disease. Prevention of Blindness has declared 2022 as the Year of Children’s Vision to raise awareness and education on specific eye health issues affecting children. According to the American Society of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS), the classification of glaucoma may be based on the age of onset. Congenital glaucoma is present at birth. Glaucoma in children develops between the ages of 1-24 months and is called juvenile glaucoma with its onset after the age of 3 years. Congenital/primary glaucoma occurs in children in the general population, with a rate of approximately 1 in 10,000 births, according to the AAPOS.

In addition, the symptoms of childhood glaucoma differ from those of adults. The Glaucoma Research Foundation states that parents and caregivers should look for signs of congenital glaucoma that include excessive tearing, large eyes, cloudy corneas and hiding from bright light or pressure on the eyelids.

Children with juvenile glaucoma may present or tell that they have vision loss, problems adapting to darkness, head or eye pain, excessive blinking or pressure on the eyelids, and persistent eye redness.

childhood glaucoma

Glaucoma can occur at all ages and is generally referred to as ‘The Sneak Thief of Sight’ because symptoms appear slowly over time,” said glaucoma expert Constance Okeke, MSCE, Virginia Eye Consultants/CVP. “The key to preventing vision loss from glaucoma is educating ourselves about the disease, and making sure both adults and children are diagnosed and treated early.”

As part of National Glaucoma Awareness Month, Dr. Okeke will join Jeff Todd, President and CEO of the Preventing Blindness Program, in a new episode of the Focus Eye Health Expert series. Dr. Okeke is an Ivy League board-certified, board-certified ophthalmologist who specializes in glaucoma and cataract surgery. She is a pioneer in invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) techniques. Dr. Okeke has been widely published in the professional literature on glaucoma, and has written her first book “The Building Blocks of Trabectome Surgery: A Step-by-Step Approach to Patient Selection”. Her next book, A Glaucoma Guide, written for glaucoma patients, will be released in the fall of 2022.

The Prevent Blindness program also offers the free resource “The Glaucoma Community” in partnership with Responsum Health. To date, the glaucoma community has more than 1,800 members and continues to grow. This resource is accessible through the mobile application and website, and members can access patient resources that include financial assistance programs, glaucoma support groups, a chat function, a personalized newsfeed, glaucoma media content and eye care in seven different languages. The glaucoma community also has its own Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/glaucomacommunity.

Program partners for the glaucoma community include the BrightFocus Foundation, the National Medical Association (NMA), the Department of Ophthalmology, the Glaucoma Foundation, and the Glaucoma Research Foundation.

For more information and materials on glaucoma, including fact sheets (available in English or Spanish), and shareable infographics, visit Preventionblindness.org/glaucoma. For information on additional financial assistance programs in English or Spanish, including Medicare coverage, visit https://preventblindness.org/vision-care-financial-assistance-information/.

About preventing blindness

Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness is the nation’s leading voluntary eye health and safety organization dedicated to combating blindness and saving sight. Focusing on enhancing the continuity of vision care, Prevent Blindness touches the lives of millions of people each year through public and professional education, advocacy, certified vision screening and training, community and patient service programs, and research. These services are made possible by the generous support of the American public. Together with a network of affiliates, Prevent Blindness is committed to eliminating preventable blindness in America. For more information, visit us at blockblindness.org, and follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

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