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Anthem Inc., Emphasizes the Importance of Regular Vision Exams, Early Detection and Treatment for Managing Glaucoma

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INDIANAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--

What is the name of the disease that impacts millions of Americans, can cause blindness if left untreated and can affect everyone from babies to senior citizens? The answer is glaucoma. Glaucoma is a disease that slowly steals a person's vision. Unfortunately, there usually are no warning signs or painful symptoms to prepare for with this disease. However, people can put a halt to the vision loss caused by glaucoma by getting a regular eye exam.

“Glaucoma is a very misunderstood disease. Many people overlook the severity of this disease, and the fact that it can cause blindness,” says Dr. Richard Hom, national optometric director for Anthem, Inc.(NYSE: ANTM) “The good news is that if a person gets regular eye exams, glaucoma can be detected and treated early, which often results in preserved vision. If glaucoma is detected during an eye exam, the eye doctor can prescribe a preventative treatment to help protect a person's vision.”

Glaucoma is a disease where damage to the optic nerve leads to progressive and irreversible vision loss. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, open-angle glaucoma (the most common form) develops gradually and sometimes without a noticeable loss of sight for a number of years. By the time a person notices the vision loss, the disease is in the advanced stages.

With open-angle glaucoma, the angle in the eye where the iris meets the cornea is as wide and open as it should be; however, the eye's drainage canals become clogged over time, which causes an increase in internal eye pressure and continuous damage to the optic nerve. Open-angle glaucoma, which is also called primary or chronic glaucoma, affects about 4 million Americans, many of whom do not know they have the disease. Most people who have open-angle glaucoma feel perfectly fine and do not notice a change in their vision initially because the initial loss of vision is the peripheral (side) vision. The sharpness of vision is intact until the later stages of the disease.

Here are some additional facts about glaucoma:

  • According to Prevent Blindness America, more than 2.2 million Americans age 40 and older (nearly one in 50) have glaucoma, but only half of those know they have it.
  • The World Health Organization says glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world.
  • African Americans and Latin Americans have an increased risk for developing glaucoma. In addition, those who are diabetic or have a family history of glaucoma have an increased risk of developing this disease.
  • People of all ages are at risk for developing glaucoma. Even though older individuals are at a higher risk for developing this disease, babies can be born with glaucoma. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, approximately one out of every 10,000 babies in America is born with glaucoma. Teens and young adults can also develop glaucoma.
  • The National Institutes of Health says there are more than 120,000 people in the United States who are blind from glaucoma, which accounts for 9-12 percent of all cases of blindness.

“January, which is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, is the perfect time to take action against this disease,” said Dr. Hom. “As researchers and doctors continue working towards discovering a cure for glaucoma, remember that early detection and immediate treatment can help prevent the further loss of vision. The beginning of the year is the great time to make an appointment with your eye care provider.”

Sources:

Glaucoma Research Foundation

The Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group, Arch Ophthalmol. 2004.

About Anthem, Inc.

Anthem is working to transform health care with trusted and caring solutions. Our health plan companies deliver quality products and services that give their members access to the care they need. With nearly 69 million people served by its affiliated companies, including more than 37 million enrolled in its family of health plans, Anthem is one of the nation's leading health benefits companies. For more information about Anthem's family of companies, please visit www.antheminc.com/companies.

Anthem, Inc. Media Contact
Donna Page, 404-842-8105
Donna.page@anthem.com

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