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Glaucoma research and resources

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Have you been diagnosed with glaucoma or told you’re at risk? You may have questions or even worry that you could lose your eyesight. 

“Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world,” says Thomas Brunner, president, and CEO of the Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF). 

More than 3 million Americans have glaucoma, but only half know they have the condition, according to a GRF page on glaucoma statistics.

“The good news is if someone is diagnosed early before they’ve lost vision, there are excellent treatments available today,” Brunner says.

The following is a guide to resources for patients at risk for glaucoma or currently have the disease.

Resources for glaucoma patients

It’s crucial to use only reputable resources and to vet information, Brunner says. First and foremost, he recommends jotting down any questions you have to take with you to your next eye appointment.

“Your No. 1 resource is your own doctor,” he says.

Glaucoma facts

Several national organizations provide free information on glaucoma:

  • The National Eye Institute, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, offers glaucoma facts and updates on glaucoma research. The institute also has a printable glaucoma guide for patients with a symptom tracker and a list of questions to ask your doctor.

  • The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers an overview of glaucoma, a glaucoma vision loss simulator, and doctor answers to patient questions about living with glaucoma. For example, they recently answered the questions, “Is it safe to postpone my annual exam due to COVID-19 if I have glaucoma?” and “Can I get LASIK if I have glaucoma?”

  • The Glaucoma Research Foundation offers glaucoma information, personal glaucoma stories, glaucoma statistics, tips for glaucoma patients, and videos on how to use glaucoma eye drops among other topics.

Glaucoma testing 

Several organizations have resources to help at-risk patients get glaucoma testing:

EyeCare America offers free eye exams and glaucoma tests by volunteer eye doctors through two programs:

  • The Seniors Program connects eligible adults age 65 and up with volunteer ophthalmologists who provide exams and up to a year of free follow-up care.

  • The Glaucoma Program provides a free glaucoma eye exam to eligible individuals who are uninsured or a normally billed exam to those who are insured.

Lions Clubs International offers free vision screening locally. Find a local club through the Lions Clubs locator tool

Medicare medical coverage (Medicare Part B) covers a glaucoma test once a year if you’re at high risk for glaucoma, meaning you meet at least one of these criteria: you have diabetes, you have a family history of glaucoma, you are African American and 50 or older, or you are Hispanic and 65 or older. 

Glaucoma research

You may want to stay up to date on the latest research on glaucoma. Here are a few ways to learn about new developments: 

Glaucoma clinical trials

Many patients ask about glaucoma clinical trials, Brunner says. The No. 1 resource he recommends is ClinicalTrials.gov. You can type your specific type of glaucoma into the search bar to find clinical trials you may be eligible for.

Glaucoma doctors

It’s key to find a doctor you trust to treat your glaucoma. Here are a few ways to find a glaucoma specialist:

  • The American Glaucoma Society has a glaucoma doctor finder on their website that allows you to search for a glaucoma specialist near where you live.

  • The American Academy of Ophthalmology allows you to search for a glaucoma specialist by geographic region and subspecialty — just make sure to choose “glaucoma” from the drop-down menu.

  • The Glaucoma Research Foundation has a list of GRF ambassadors — doctors across the U.S. who specialize in glaucoma and are committed to patient education.

Glaucoma hospitals

If you have a complex case of glaucoma or already have vision loss, you may want to seek care at an ophthalmology hospital. U.S. News & World Report has a ranking of the top ophthalmology hospitals in the country, chosen by ophthalmology specialists. The top three are:

  • Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital — The Wilmer Eye Institute, located in Maryland, offers comprehensive glaucoma care, treatment and second opinions for complex glaucoma cases.

  • Wills Eye Hospital at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital — The Wills Eye Hospital, located in Pennsylvania, has a glaucoma service that offers a state-of-the-art diagnostic laboratory and treatment with the latest laser and surgical techniques. 

  • Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami — This Florida institution treats more than 40,000 patients with advanced glaucoma each year. The Bascom Palmer Eye Institute offers sophisticated diagnostic tools and treatments, including minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS).

Glaucoma support groups

Online or in-person support groups can help you compare notes, share experiences and get information. Here are a few glaucoma support groups:

  • The Glaucoma Foundation has online glaucoma support groups for young people and adults with glaucoma as well as for parents of children with glaucoma.

  • Facebook support groups for glaucoma patients include a support group from the nonprofit Glaucoma Eyes International that has more than 18,000 members, along with another group called Glaucoma Support.

  • You can also ask your doctor about local in-person glaucoma support groups, Brunner says.

Glaucoma patients do need to do research and get involved in their own care, but they don’t need to worry, Brunner says. New treatments are being developed and researchers are even working on finding a cure. “This is a hopeful time for patients,” he says.

Additional sources:

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