In addition to their obvious practical use, the eyes have been a source of inspiration for poets and dreamers practically since people have had the time to invest in such pursuits. Among friends and loved ones, a simple look or even a glance can communicate how someone feels or what we are thinking.
January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month; as good a time as any to remind ourselves of how much we rely on our sight for even the simplest of pleasures and tasks, and of how fragile this gift can be. Next to diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. The risks are greater once we reach age 50, and the symptoms often are so subtle that they may not even be noticed until the condition is fairly advanced.
Early symptoms can be limited to a very gradual loss of peripheral vision, but may also include red eyes or seeing halos around bright lights or brightly lit objects. There’s no cure, but treatment can preserve the patient’s vision and can be as non-intrusive as prescription eye drops.
The most important treatment, of course, is early diagnosis. Eye examinations are covered by some health insurance plans, but not all, including Medicare Part B. If you or other members of your family don’t have vision coverage, talk to your primary care physician about your individual risk and screening options.
The Glaucoma Research Foundation offers a free booklet about the disease, which you can request here. There’s also an option to download a PDF version if you prefer not to share your mailing address.