What would you do if you woke up one day and you couldn’t see? How would you cope with the little things you do and take for granted every day?
Both questions sound very hypothetical and they probably sound like they could never happen, at least to you. Well, you are wrong. It can happen to anyone. It can happen to someone who is very close to you. It can happen without warning.
I have recently been working with not for profit organisations that specialise in visual impairment and blindness. Working with them has made me aware of various things that we all take for granted.
We never consider how accessibility affects people who can’t read standard print or the internet. We never consider how lack of accessible material affects children who can’t see from birth or from an early age and how it affects their literacy. When adults lose their eyesight and can’t read, their diction begins to deteriorate. These are small things that never cross our mind because we take our sight for granted.
The flip side is that anyone can lose their eyesight at any point in their life. Glaucoma is one such cause of blindness and it can cause vision loss without warning. How do you know if you are at risk of glaucoma? Are you at risk?
Answer these five questions:
1] Are you of African, African Caribbean or African American origin?
2] Are you short sighted?
3] Are you aged 35 – 40?
4] Do you have diabetes?
5] Do you have a family history of glaucoma?
If your answer is yes to at least one of the questions above, then, you are at risk. You should be tested, ideally, once every two years. For some unknown reason, African Americans, African Caribbean’s or people of African origin are five to six times more likely to contract glaucoma.
Is that bad news? Hear this: it occurs earlier in people like us. Blindness from glaucoma is six times more common. This is not a conspiracy theory. It is real. Maybe the disease is racist. I am joking. But for some reason, it seems to target us and progresses rapidly once we contract it.
There are various types of glaucoma. It hasn’t got a uniform definition which makes it difficult to realise. However, there are three main types. These are [i] congenital/ hereditary glaucoma, [ii] primary open-angle glaucoma and [iii] primary angle-closure glaucoma. Overall, it affects about 5.2 million people which accounts for about 15% of blind people worldwide.
Unlike other conditions, there are no symptoms initially. This makes it difficult to recognise. However, painlessly and slowly it attacks your sight. Off centre vision is the first to go while central vision remains. The affected eye might have blank patches of vision but you won’t notice it because the other eye completes the picture. You won’t have any problems focussing because of the other eye compensating for gradual loss. You probably won’t even feel the need for glasses and that is the danger with glaucoma.
If undetected and untreated, you will eventually lose your sight. Once vision loss starts, it can’t be reversed. However, the sooner it is detected; the treatment will be more successful. It is possible that your eyesight might seem excellent; however, that assumption is misleading because you could lose considerable sight irreversibly before you become aware of the problem. That is why it is crucial to get tested about once every two years, especially, if you are between 35 – 40 years.
Your optometrist can carry out a simple test to check if you have glaucoma. That test can also reveal if you have any other underlying conditions such as auto-immune disorders, dry eye, hypertension, Macular degeneration, shingles, inflammation of the cornea, raised cholesterol, hypertension, Pituitary tumours and Thyroidtoxicosis.
Eye drops are normally used to treat glaucoma. In more serious cases, laser treatment or surgery may be recommended. The great news is that once glaucoma is detected and treated, the majority of people retain lifetime vision.
Don’t take chances; take care of your eyes. Now you know you can’t blame ignorance. Spread the word. It is World Blindness Month; do something to raise awareness or get yourself tested. Don’t rely on carrots.
You can consult Google and search more about glaucoma. Alternatively, check the link below. Let me know what you think.