Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages the optic nerve (the nerve that communicates between your eyes and your brain). While glaucoma is common, it’s also serious: If not treated properly, this disease can cause blindness.
This is why raising awareness about the importance of vision health, glaucoma screenings, and treatment is so important. However, many individuals can’t access the health services they need. Working with a healthcare solution provider like Solvere Health can help expand access to vision healthcare services and glaucoma screenings in rural areas and other underserved communities.
The Prevalence of Glaucoma
Approximately three million Americans have glaucoma. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide.
Some populations are more likely to develop glaucoma, including:
- African Americans over age 40
- Anyone over 60
- People who have diabetes
African Americans are six to eight times more likely to get glaucoma. Hispanic people are also more likely to develop this disease, while Asian and Inuit populations are particularly vulnerable to closed-angle glaucoma.
There isn’t necessarily a higher glaucoma prevalence in rural communities than in urban areas. But certain factors can lead to higher rates of undiagnosed and untreated glaucoma in rural areas. These factors can include:
- Limited access to healthcare facilities and vision care providers
- Transportation barriers
- Lack of vision health awareness about the importance of regular eye exams
These challenges can make it difficult for individuals in rural communities to receive the proper vision health screenings and treatment for glaucoma. In turn, this may cause a higher prevalence of undiagnosed and untreated cases in these areas.
Why Early Detection Is Key
For individuals to retain their vision, it’s essential to detect glaucoma as soon as possible. In the early stages, glaucoma doesn’t cause any symptoms; half of the people with glaucoma don’t realize they have it. And when the vision loss begins, it’s subtle and slow.
It’s too easy for someone to lose a significant amount of vision before realizing something is wrong. If glaucoma isn’t treated properly, it can cause total blindness.
This is why regular screenings are essential. People aged 40 and up, especially those with additional risk factors for glaucoma, should undergo screening once every 1-2 years.
A person’s vision can often be preserved when glaucoma is caught and treated early. Glaucoma can be controlled with the proper treatment, such as eye drops, medication, or surgery, depending on the individual’s disease progression.
While this treatment can’t reverse any damage that has already been done, it can prevent additional vision loss.
Challenges to Accessing Glaucoma Screenings
The availability of glaucoma screenings is limited in certain areas. What’s more, there is often a cost barrier, too — general health insurance typically doesn’t cover vision care.
Original Medicare (Parts A and B) does not cover most routine eye exams. Individuals will typically need a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C).
Many people are also not aware of the importance of regular screenings. Vision care is an afterthought for too many Americans: One survey discovered that nearly one in 10 Americans (9.8%) had not had an eye exam in over five years.
Possible Solutions Include Educational Campaigns
For individuals who don’t have the necessary insurance coverage, financial assistance programs are available to help cover the cost of vision care services, expanding access to glaucoma screenings and treatment. These programs include:
• State and federal programs
• Charitable organizations
• Assistance from vision care providers
Educational campaigns can also help people realize how crucial regular glaucoma screenings are.
Partnering with community organizations is a way to provide free or low-cost screenings. Nonprofits might use donations or grants to offer mobile vision care services to individuals in need.
Expanding Access to Glaucoma Screenings
For the 111 million people worldwide who will develop glaucoma by 2040, early detection and treatment are imperative to keep their vision clear. And the value of public health efforts to increase access to glaucoma screenings can’t be overstated.
Contact Solvere Health to take action by offering accessible glaucoma screenings. We strategize and implement ways to meet underserved populations, providing onsite mobile and pop-up clinic vision healthcare solutions for those who need them most.