Glaucoma: Impact on Your Health and Trucking Career
January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is a serious disease which leads to irreversible vision loss. It is the world's second leading cause of blindness. For commercial truck drivers, good vision is essential to job performance. Glaucoma can disqualify you from driving if you cannot obtain a vision exemption as part of your DOT physical examination. Keep reading to learn who's at risk, the symptoms, prevention and treatment.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is actually a group of diseases that are related to optic nerve damage. Although certain populations are at greater risk, glaucoma can affect people of all ages. There are several types of glaucoma, but the most common is open-angle glaucoma, which accounts for 90% of all diagnosed cases. "Open-angle" refers to the widening of the point where the iris and the cornea meet. With this type of glaucoma, symptoms develop slowly, over time.
Because glaucoma develops gradually, symptoms may often go unnoticed, and untreated, for long periods. Loss of peripheral and side vision is usually the earliest symptom. But many glaucoma patients remain unaware of their vision problems until they experience blurry vision. At this point, glaucoma is usually in its advanced stages.
Glaucoma can occur in people of any age, but certain groups have a higher risk of developing the disease:
- African Americans
- People over 60
- Family members with glaucoma
- Steroid users
- People with previous eye injury
Although minority groups statistically have a higher risk of developing glaucoma, scientific research has yet to determine a reason for the increased risk.
Prevention and Treatment
Although glaucoma is not preventable, early detection can slow progression of the disease. Regular eye exams are best way to diagnose glaucoma early. Once diagnosed, glaucoma can be treated with medication in its early stages. Advanced cases of glaucoma may require surgery in order to temporarily relieve symptoms. The effects of surgery may last 1-5 years, but vision will continue to deteriorate.
Driving with Glaucoma
While a glaucoma diagnosis is serious, it may not mean the end of your driving career. To continue driving with glaucoma, you must apply for a vision exemption from FMCSA. Details of the vision exemption program and application packet can be obtained from the FMCSA web site. Source: Glaucoma Research Foundation