Glaucoma is a severe condition that affects your eyesight. Regular visits to your eye care specialist can catch the debilitation condition early, and if directions are followed, you might not lose your eyesight. As for Veterans, the best option for you is understanding what is glaucoma and your treatment options through the VA.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is when your optic nerve is damaged because of pressure in the eye. The pressure would be similar to the over-inflation of a ball.
The types of glaucoma:
- Closed-angle glaucoma happens quickly and can cause damage to the optical nerve quickly.
- Open-angle glaucoma happens slowly over time.
- Secondary glaucoma can be caused by secondary like diabetes or cataracts.
- Normal-tension glaucoma can happen even if the eye pressure is normal.
Attribute: Acute Angle Closure glaucoma Jonathan Trobe, M.D.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
Open-angle glaucoma only has symptoms in the late stages and would be the loss of peripheral vision.
Closed-angle glaucoma symptoms would be loss of vision and eye pain.
Normal-tension and secondary glaucoma have the same symptoms as open-angle.
What are my chances of getting glaucoma as a Veteran?
Glaucoma is, in part, a hereditary disease, and you would want to speak to family members if it runs in the family. If a family does have a history of glaucoma, you will want to visit a specialist for testing.
Glaucoma is more common if you are 50 and over.
The disease is more prevalent among African-American and Hispanic veterans. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness. Catching it early through regular doctors’ visits can help prevent it from getting worse.
Can Glaucoma Be Treated?
Yes, glaucoma can be treated. However, the damage that has already been caused cannot be repaired.
The types of treatments are:
- Eye drops
- Oral Medications
- Laser surgery
If your eye doctor prescribes eyedrops consult your primary care doctor first. Some side-effects could cause problems with your heart and lungs.
The oral medication might be a beta-blocker that reduces the fluid in your eyes and helps with drainage.
Laser surgery will help with drainage and fluid.
Microsurgery adds a tube to help with drainage.
Speak to your doctor to talk about your best options.
Can Veteran glaucoma be prevented?
There is nothing you can do to prevent glaucoma. Catching it in the early stages could help save your vision.
Things that you can do to minimize your risk are:
- Regular eye exams.
- Regular exercise.
- Wearing eye protection.
- Know your family history.
Does the VA Treat Glaucoma?
The VA will do testing for glaucoma and is considered part of their routine in preventative medicine. If you are tested and it is determined that you have glaucoma, the VA will treat the condition with either eye drops or surgery. This would depend on what the recommendation is from your eye doctor.
How Does the VA Rate Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a condition rated in CFR 38 Part 4 (4.79 Schedule of Ratings – eye). The VA will give a minimum of 10% for glaucoma if you need continuous medication.
The VA could give you a higher rating and depends on the disease eye formula and depends on your level of visual impairment. The VA rates, according to three criteria:
- Central visual acuity
- The Visual field
- Muscle function
Central visual acuity is better known as being near-sighted or far-sighted. Are things blurry when you look directly at them, are they close or far away?
The visual field is considered your entire range of vision from central to peripheral on all sides, including up and down.
Muscle function means how well your eyes move. Do both eyes move at the same time to the same place of focus? If they do not, the item you are looking at might look like it is in two different places.
Your Ophthalmologist should include central visual acuity, visual field, and muscle function when testing for glaucoma if you can have your eye doctor fill out a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) for eye conditions.
Does glaucoma qualify for special monthly compensation?
If you can not see more than light, it is possible that you could qualify for special monthly compensation. The primary category glaucoma would fall under is the category,” L.”
Does the VA offer rehabilitation services for blindness?
If you have low vision or are blind, the VA does offer services for rehabilitation. The VA will help with training for you and your family so that you can adapt to the new condition. They will also provide counseling.
Should I file a lifestyle impact claim if I have glaucoma?
What is a lifestyle impact claim? How does glaucoma affect your life? Have you had to make any changes in your daily life? Do you need any extra help from family members? Are you having difficulty seeing objects? Are you under threat of losing your driver’s license? These are some of the questions to think about. If you are able to answer “YES” to any of these, you should file.
Why is getting an eye exam for glaucoma important? Think about the consequences if you do not. Losing your eyesight will have a major impact on the things you do. You will not see your children’s activities; you can lose your ability to drive. Think about what type of impact reduced vision or blindness will have on you. If you can prevent it or at least slow it down, why wouldn’t you do what is necessary?
Your vision is one of your most important functions to participate in life. The VA has the facilities and covers preventative eye examinations, why not take advantage of that. Glaucoma sneaks up on you and takes away your vision. Get your eyes checked regularly to help stop it from happening.
January is glaucoma awareness month, so take the time to get your eyes checked.
If you need help filing a claim for glaucoma, the VA Claims Insider’s Experts can help you through the process. We can help guide you and build a strategy, so you get the VA disability you deserve by law. Visit VA Claims Insider Elite, to sign up now.