Kenzo J. Koike, M.D., Florida Eye Specialists
Glaucoma is a disease that damages your eye’s optic nerve. It’s a leading cause of blindness in the country, and more than 3 million Americans are living with this condition. Unfortunately, a new study of 200 hospitals across 40 states shows that glaucoma patients across the country aren’t seeking the eye treatments they need to preserve sight. Published by U.S. News & World Report, the study found that glaucoma appointments are down 88 percent since the COVID-19 pandemic. This is concerning given that glaucoma can quickly steal vision, and once it’s lost, it cannot be restored.
That’s why it’s crucial to keep your appointments. Glaucoma is a chronic disease that needs constant management and care. You may be worried, but many eye practices have made special accommodations for high risk patients to allow those who need their appointments to continue receiving the best care. Read on to learn more about protecting your sight during COVID-19.
How Glaucoma Affects Vision
Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases, most of which are caused by excess pressure around the optic nerve. When pressure is too high, usually due to a backup of fluids inside the eye, the nerve cannot continue to be healthy, which can lead to vision problems. Most forms of glaucoma begin with the loss of peripheral vision and slowly erode the entire field of vision. If the condition progresses far enough, it can lead to blindness.
Contrary to popular belief, there are hardly any symptoms or signs in the early stages of the disease. Glaucoma develops slowly and painlessly. Vision loss often begins with side or peripheral vision, which may impact an individual’s ability to drive safely. By the time patients realize they have vision problems, the damage is irreversible.
Glaucoma Treatment Options
Fortunately, there are treatments that can slow progression if glaucoma is caught early. That’s why it’s critical for all patients 60 and over to receive regular, comprehensive eye exams, so we can detect glaucoma and begin treatment right away. For a majority of cases, prescription eye drops can help lower intraocular pressure. Most patients respond well to this treatment, delaying or preventing the progression of the disease. For those whose glaucoma is more aggressive, treatment options include laser treatments or eye surgery to relieve the pressure inside the eye.
Safety Practices To Preserve Vision
With glaucoma, every day counts toward saving your sight, and you should never skip an appointment. Even during a pandemic, the hospital is the safest place to be. Call your eye doctor to ask about the precautions the clinic is taking to ensure your health and safety. For example, at Florida Eye Specialists, some of the safety steps we’re taking include limiting our waiting room to 10 patients at a time, at least 6 feet a part. Everyone’s temperature is checked upon arrival, and all staff, doctors and patients are provided masks to wear at all times. Doctors and staff wash their hands between every patient. We’re also providing a “clean” placard on exam chairs, so patients know the room has been disinfected before they enter. Patients will then stay in the same room for all portions of their exam, limiting mobility around the office. Whatever steps your clinic has in place, make sure you feel safe and comfortable before you go for your appointment.
Maintain Your Eye Care And Protect Your Sight
If you have glaucoma and you’re overdue for your eye treatment, don’t wait any longer. Remember that clinics are making special accommodations for high risk patients. Your eye care provider is taking every precaution to assure your safety. Talk to your doctor about the safety measures that are in place to protect your health and your sight.
Kenzo J. Koike, M.D., is a board-certified, fellowship-trained ophthalmologist at Florida Eye Specialists. For more information on Dr. Koike and his specialties treating cataracts and glaucoma, visit FloridaEyeSpecialists.com.
Column drafted for Florida Eye Specialists and published in the Ponte Vedra Recorder.