Glaucoma directly affects more than 3 million Americans today. The disease doesn’t just affect those with it, though. Friends and family, and any supportive loved ones, join the battle to try to slow the “sneak thief of sight” right alongside them.
Although glaucoma causes permanent vision loss and even blindness, early detection of the disease and the right support can help prolong the impact of the disease. While statistics on glaucoma may seem scary, managing the disease doesn’t have to be, especially with help.
Glaucoma hit close to home for retired nurse Kris, as both her husband and mother-in-law were diagnosed with it. She shared her story of compassion and hope as she supported them in their fight against the disease.
“I was a caregiver for my mother-in-law when she was diagnosed with glaucoma,” Kris said. “She had no symptoms of glaucoma; it was discovered during a routine eye exam with her optometrist.”
Kris’ mother-in-law was put on eye drops initially, but needed laser surgery too. The battle had begun, and it required two surgeries and a whole lot of drops she hated taking to begin treating her Glaucoma.
“Her pressures were not well-controlled,” Kris said. “She did lose some peripheral vision over the course of two years.”
Kris’ mother-in-law died from natural causes at the age of 89, three years after being diagnosed with glaucoma. Treatments helped, though, and Kris’ mother-in-law was able to live her final years relatively free of dramatic changes in the progression of the eye disease because of frequent checkups and administration of medication.
“Other than the inconvenience of remembering to take the medications at regular times and the frequent visits to the doctor, her glaucoma was not difficult to live with,” she said.
The challenges for Kris’ family related to glaucoma continued. Kris’ husband was diagnosed with normal-tension glaucoma in his left eye five years ago. It was discovered during a routine appointment with his eye doctor.
“The optometrist noticed a problem with his optic nerve and referred him to an ophthalmologist immediately,” Kris said. “We had never heard of normal pressure glaucoma before. It apparently may be related to the fact that he has an irregular heartbeat, congenital aortic stenosis, and a congenital abnormality of the tricuspid valve. Or not, as very little is known about this type of glaucoma.”
Kris shared that laser surgery and eye drops helped lower his eye pressure. Her husband also, sees his ophthalmologist twice a year and has the visual field test yearly to help manage his condition.
Now at the age of 68, due to the early detection of the disease and rapid treatment of it, Kris’ husband has not experienced any loss of vision.
“At first, we both had feelings of anxiety and fear over what was happening,” Kris said. “But at this point, since he has not experienced any further progression of damage to the optic nerve, we only think about it when he needs to fill a prescription or make an appointment for an exam.”
The learnings from Kris’ experience with her mother-in-law helped with the initial anxiety of his diagnosis.
“Like his mother, the biggest issue is remembering to take the medication,” Kris said. “But he has never had pressures that were considered high, or even in the upper range of normal.”
Both experiences have left Kris with a stern warning for anyone else who may be in a similar situation—and may not even know it. In fact, 50 percent of people with glaucoma don’t know they have the disease.
“There is no reason to fear glaucoma,” Kris said. “Even laser surgery is routine, and there is no discomfort before, during or after. Delaying diagnosing and treating glaucoma, however, can result in permanent damage to vision. Get an eye exam.”
If you haven’t had your annual comprehensive eye exam, find a VSP network eye doctor today and schedule an appointment.