When it comes to securing the best patient outcomes, it’s crucially important to catch conditions early — and the key to this is to routinely screen patients. Ophthalmologists know that this is hardly news, but patients often fail to maintain a healthful screening schedule and may not appear at the clinic for years at a time. However, everyone should be screened regularly … and this especially applies to older people who are most at risk of developing cataract and glaucoma.
It’s Healthy Vision Month and Media MICE is on a quest to emphasize the importance of fundamental issues like screening — especially when it comes to common and treatable conditions like glaucoma and cataract. It’s not only important for patients to know the importance of screening and prevention, but for doctors to transmit information in a way patients can understand.
So, let’s start with glaucoma. Always take their family history when speaking with patients: Ask them about their relatives, as there’s a strong association between glaucoma risk and a family history of the disease. Patients often don’t realize this, so doctors can provide some crucial knowledge here.1
Doctors should also emphasize that glaucoma often begins without any symptoms1 — this fact can help impart the importance of screening to patients. In the U.S. in particular, this point should especially be stressed to African-American patients: This demographic group is up to four times more likely to develop glaucoma than those with European descent, possibly due to higher rates of diabetes and obesity.2
Cataracts are common and cataract surgery is among the most commonly performed surgical procedures in the U.S. today. So, when patients start to creep into their 50s, doctors should emphasize the importance of regular screenings and checkups.
Further, ask patients about their medical history, especially if diabetes or high blood pressure is suspected. If they have these conditions, or if they’ve undergone treatment with high dose corticosteroids or radiation therapy (with exposure to the lens), get them in for screening every year at the very least. For everyone else, the advice is at least every two years — but hey, the more regular the better.3
- McMonnies CW. Glaucoma History and Risk Factors. J Optom. 2017;10(2):71-78.
- Ou Y. Glaucoma in the African American and Hispanic Communities. National Glaucoma Research. Available at: https://www.brightfocus.org/glaucoma/article/glaucoma-african-american-and-hispanic-communities Accessed on 27 May 2022.
- Cataract Screening – How Does it Work? Westchester Eye Surgeons. Available at https://www.westchester-eye-surgeons.com/cataract-screening-process/. Accessed on 27 May 2022.