January Awareness: Cervical Health and Glaucoma

Two important health concerns, cervical cancer and glaucoma, are recognized every January. Cervical Health Awareness Month spreads the word about cervical cancer, human papillomavirus (HPV), and the importance of early detection. Glaucoma Awareness Month informs people about this sight-stealing disease and the need for regular eye exams.

The numbers highlight the seriousness of cervical cancer and glaucoma.

The National Eye Institute reports that more than 2.7 million people in the U.S. have glaucoma. It is estimated that nearly 13,000 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2017, according to Cancer.net, with an estimate of 4,210 deaths from the disease.

What can you do in the fights against glaucoma and cervical cancers? Knowledge and awareness are the best tools to have at your disposal.

Cervical cancer

The cause of 99 percent of cervical cancers, according to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC), is HPV, a sexually transmitted infection. There are more than 100 HPV types, but more than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases stem from two HPV types.

Cervical cancer symptoms

The NCCC says if you experience any of these symptoms to notify your doctor, because it could be a sign of cervical cancer or another health issue:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Pelvic pain not related to your menstrual cycle
  • More frequent urination
  • Pain during urination
  • Heavy or unusual vaginal discharge

Cervical cancer prevention

According to the American Cancer Society, to prevent cervical cancer, women should:

  • Be tested for HPV
  • Get an HPV vaccine
  • Not smoke or quit smoking
  • Practice condom use

Cervical cancer screenings

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women 21 to 65 receive cervical cancer screenings every three years. The most common screening is a Pap smear, and a Pap smear should be done in combination with HPV testing.

Helping someone with cervical cancer

If someone you love has been diagnosed with cervical cancer, you can help her by:

  • Providing support and encouragement
  • Helping her with medications
  • Assisting with meal preparation
  • Giving her a ride to and from medical appointments
  • Taking over household chores

Glaucoma: The sneak thief of sight

Imagine slowly losing your eyesight but not being aware of it. That’s what glaucoma does. The disease is called “the sneak thief of sight” for good reason: There are no noticeable symptoms at first, and vision loss is irreversible. People can lose up to 40 percent of their vision before noticing the disease.

According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF), more than 3 million Americans, and more than 60 million people worldwide, have glaucoma. Experts estimate half of these people don’t know they have the disease.

Glaucoma symptoms

The BrightFocus Foundation, a nonprofit that supports research to end glaucoma and other diseases, notes that glaucoma symptoms aren’t noticeable at first. Symptoms that later present themselves include:

  • Gradual peripheral vision loss
  • Tunnel vision
  • Severe eye pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye redness

Glaucoma prevention

Glaucoma might not be fully prevented, according to Mayo Clinic, but these self-care steps can help with early detection, limiting vision loss, and slowing disease progression:

  • Regular eye care
  • Safe exercise
  • Wearing eye protection
  • Regularly taking prescribed eyedrops
  • Knowing your family’s eye health history

Glaucoma screenings

A glaucoma diagnosis should not be made before your doctor performs the following diagnostic exams, according to the GRF:

  • Tonometry (eye pressure measurement)
  • Ophthalmoscopy (pupil dilation to examine the optic nerve)
  • Perimetry (visual field test)
  • Gonioscopy (exam of the angle where the iris meets the cornea)
  • Pachymetry (measuring cornea thickness)

Helping someone with glaucoma

If you are caring for someone with glaucoma, you can help by:

  • Giving him or her low-vision aids, such as customized magnifiers and large-print books
  • Making adjustments to the home, such as improving lighting and removing unnecessary household clutter
  • Taking him or her shopping and helping to find items
  • Providing transportation services
  • Being emotionally there for him or her