Active living and healthy vision go hand in hand. That’s why protecting your eyes is so important. As you make informed choices to improve your well-being in 2022, here’s some important information that can help better your eye health too.
These five frequently asked questions about a common eye disease can serve as a guide to take care of your vision in the year ahead.
1. What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is caused by eye pressure that is too high and can damage the optic nerve. The most common form of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma, where pressure builds slowly and often without warning. More importantly, early damage from glaucoma typically causes loss of side vision, which may not be noticeable until extensive irreversible damage has occurred. Left untreated, glaucoma can lead to worsening vision and irreversible blindness. The best way to manage glaucoma is through early detection and treatment. Step one in that process is having a regular eye exam.
2. How do I find an eye doctor?
The start of a new year is the perfect time to make annual eye exams part of your healthy lifestyle. At your appointment, an eye doctor — either an ophthalmologist or an optometrist — will perform an eye exam to look for any vision issues. To find a local eye doctor, start with research and ask your primary care doctor, family and friends for referrals. Helpful resources include the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Find an Ophthalmologist page and the American Optometric Association’s Find a Doctor page, where you can find a list of eye doctors in your area.
3. Is glaucoma care covered by health insurance?
Receiving a diagnosis of glaucoma can be alarming. The good news is that there are a range of treatments to help you and your doctor manage your condition. Medical treatment for eye diseases, including glaucoma, is typically covered by health insurance. Check with your healthcare provider for specifics on your level of coverage. If your treatment plan includes prescription medications such as eye drops, be sure to shop around at various pharmacies to find the best price. If you are at high risk of glaucoma, you are eligible for an annual glaucoma screening through Medicare, which also may help cover glaucoma medications and treatments. If you are still working and have commercial insurance, you may be able to take advantage of savings cards provided by the manufacturers of your medicines.
4. How can I better manage my eye medications?
Properly taking prescription eye drops to manage pressure in your eye can be a fundamental part of the glaucoma treatment routine. When using eye drops, it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions, always wash your hands, and keep your eye dropper clean. Other helpful tips include resting your hand on your face to reduce hand shaking, and placing eye drops in the inner corner of your eyelid. If you are having trouble keeping up with your dosing schedule, talk to your eye doctor about options for reducing the number of drops you take, including options for in-office laser treatment.
5. Are there other healthy living choices that can benefit eye health?
There are many lifestyle choices that can help keep your eyes healthy. These include eating a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, fish, proteins such as eggs and beans, and citrus fruits; exercising regularly; wearing sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) light protection; and quitting smoking. Rest your eyes often to maximize your ability to use your computer, tablet and phone. Above all, always listen to your eyes. If you are experiencing a change in vision or any other eye symptoms, contact your eye doctor.
“Your eyes are an important part of your overall health. By taking steps to identify and treat eye diseases as early as possible, and staying diligent to healthy living goals, you can help keep your eyes healthy and your vision sharp,” says Andrew Iwach, M.D., executive director of the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco.
The Glaucoma Research Foundation offers a wealth of online resources to help you build a plan for better eye health, including “Understanding and Living with Glaucoma.” This free booklet, with support by Aerie Pharmaceuticals, is available in English and Spanish. It can be downloaded or ordered at www.glaucoma.org/booklet.