Even though glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness, common misconceptions
about the disease persist. In the following story we shine a light on
these misconceptions and discuss two nagging issues glaucoma sufferers
continue to face: The mounting costs of glaucoma medication and ongoing
challenges to comply with treatment plans.
According to Key-Whitman Eye Center’s
Dallas and Arlington Eye Doctor Amy Hong, M.D., “We’re at a point where socioeconomic changes in healthcare
are having a direct impact on patient outcomes. Between the rising costs
of medication, difficulty remembering to take medication and the discomfort
some people experience with drops, compliance with glaucoma treatment
plans can be challenging for some patients.”
Fortunately, recent technological advances, such as the iStent implant,
offer new treatment alternatives for mild to moderate Glaucoma patients
today. Plus, there are even more options on the horizon.
Dr. Hong offers insight into how new medications may reduce cost and compliance
issues for glaucoma patients.
5 misconceptions about glaucoma pose a significant threat to eye health
If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma or are at risk for the disease
(age 45+, family history of glaucoma, African heritage, steroid use and
more), it’s important to get an annual eye exam and understand the
facts. Several misconceptions about glaucoma and treatments for the disease
could put you at risk for permanent vision loss, including:
Misconception No. 1: It’s OK to wait until symptoms arise to seek
treatment for glaucoma.
FALSE. Glaucoma is a silent disease and by the time you experience symptoms (typically,
loss of peripheral vision), irreversible vision loss has occurred. Like
the spinal cord, once damage to the optic nerve occurs (which is what
happens with glaucoma), the damage is permanent. Only an eye doctor can
diagnose glaucoma before symptoms appear.
As Dr. Hong explains, “There is a slow deterioration of the nerve
that connects the eyeball to the brain, and as it deteriorates, there
is no pain involved. Once you notice vision loss, the disease typically
will be very advanced.”
Dr. Hong discusses why controlling eye pressure to manage glaucoma is similar
to controlling blood pressure but more difficult for patients to monitor.
Misconception No. 2: Glaucoma treatments cure the disease.
FALSE. “Glaucoma treatments are used to
control the disease. There is no cure. So if your eye doctor places you on glaucoma
therapy, you have to maintain and monitor that treatment protocol to prevent
further vision loss. It’s not like you can take medication for a
year and expect to be cured (see No. 1 above),” says Dr. Hong.
Misconception No. 3: Marijuana is a safe and effective treatment option
FALSE. According to Dr. Hong, “Both the American Glaucoma Society and the
American Academy of Ophthalmology do NOT recommend the use of marijuana
as a treatment for glaucoma.”
Learn more about the risk smoking marijuana poses to eye health in this
Why Roseanne Barr Is Just Blowing Smoke: Pot and Glaucoma Don't Mix
Misconception No. 4: Topical drops are the only option available to treat glaucoma.
FALSE. There are currently three treatment options for glaucoma. Along with
topical drops, some patients may be candidates for surgical procedures to lower intraocular
pressure (IOP) and deter future vision loss.
Selective laser trabeculectomy (SLT) has been offered in the U.S. for several years. Laser energy is applied
to the drainage tissue in the eye help reduce IOP. (You can learn more about
SLT FAQs on the Glaucoma Research Foundation website.)
The second surgical option is less invasive and involves placing
the world's tiniest medical implant –
the iStent – in the eye to reduce IOP for mild to moderate Glaucoma.
As Dr. Hong explains, “The iStent procedure is minimally invasive
and usually performed
during cataract surgery. It only takes a few minutes to implant the stent, and there is minimal
risk and no pain associated with the procedure. Both surgical procedures
can help many patients reduce their dependency on drops.”
Misconception No. 5: All glaucoma treatment options are cost-prohibitive,
so I’ll get by using drops less frequently.
FALSE and FALSE. There is no question the cost of prescription medication (including some
topical drops for glaucoma) is becoming a burden for many people, especially
seniors. However, it’s essential that you talk with your eye doctor
about treatment alternatives that may be less expensive – because
you do have options.
surgical procedures – including iStent and SLT – are often covered by insurance plans like Medicare and
some commercial insurers and can offer long-term savings for patients
who reduce dependence on drops.
Abandoning or altering the treatment plan your doctor has prescribed is
not a good idea, especially with glaucoma. If you don’t take the
adequate amount of drops, you won’t be able to control eye pressure
properly and vision loss and eventual blindness will occur.
Don’t take glaucoma lightly. The risks are real!
Let’s put it this way. If you have glaucoma and don’t seek
treatment you will eventually go blind. Period.
“Glaucoma is a chronic eye disease that requires ongoing treatment
by a glaucoma specialist. Even if you FEEL fine, if you have glaucoma,
it’s vital to see your eye doctor every three or four months (or
per your doctor’s recommendation) to keep your eye pressure in check,”
advises Dr. Hong.
If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and want to learn more about
new glaucoma treatment options to reduce medication costs and compliance
hassles, give us a call at (855) 410-8106 or schedule an eye exam with our handy online tool.
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