January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma affects 2.7 million people in the U.S. and is the leading cause of preventable blindness. Glaucoma, sometimes called the "sneak thief of sight," has no symptoms and no cure. Once vision is gone, it's gone. 60 million people worldwide have glaucoma, although probably half do not know that they have the disease. At least 4.5 million people worldwide are blind as a result of glaucoma.
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, glaucoma is an eye disease that primarily affects the middle-aged and seniors, although children and young people can also be affected. The disease damages the optic nerve, the part of the eye that transmits images to the brain. There are two types of glaucoma, both of which are indicated by increased pressure inside the eye. It is the leading cause of blindness in the world. The first symptoms are loss of peripheral (side) vision, so people frequently don't notice that their vision is decreasing.
People at higher risk for glaucoma include people of African, Asian and Hispanic descent. People over 60, family members of people with glaucoma, diabetics, and severely near-sighted people are at higher risk for glaucoma. People with these risk factors should be sure to schedule regular vision exams that include a glaucoma test.
People who are have lost their vision because of glaucoma are eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To be eligible for SSI, you must be legally blind, which means your vision cannot be better than 20/200 in your better eye or if your field of vision is 20 degrees or less in the better eye.
Even if your vision does not meet the definition of legally blind, you may still be eligible for SSD benefits if you are unable to work because of reduced vision resulting from glaucoma or from a combination of glaucoma and other conditions.
To get help applying for disability benefits and to have your questions answered, do what many others in your situation have done: Call Binder & Binder, America's most successful Social Security Disability advocates. Tell them your story and find out how they can help you.