January is observed as “National Glaucoma Awareness Month” – an important time to spread the word about glaucoma, often called the “silent thief of sight”. Regarded as one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness, glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve which connects the eye to the brain. This optic nerve damage often caused by an abnormally high pressure in the eyes may result in partial vision loss or blindness. Sponsored by the Glaucoma Research Foundation, the monthly campaign is the perfect platform to educate the general community about the need to undergo regular eye exams and show general support for those suffering from the same. There are different forms of glaucoma and many forms have no specific warning symptoms. The effect is so gradual that people may not notice a visible change in vision until the condition reaches an advanced stage. As vision loss due to this condition can’t be recovered, it is important to carry out regular eye exams that include measurement of eye pressure. Regular eye exams help in identifying the condition in its early stages so that appropriate treatment can be initiated to slow/prevent the progression of the condition. Ophthalmologists offering treatment for different forms of glaucoma need to ensure that the medical billing and coding for the same is done appropriately on their medical claims. Relying on the services of an established medical billing company can ensure timely claim filing and correct reimbursement.

The main objective behind this campaign is to keep people in the know about glaucoma. Several eye care organizations utilize this campaign to address the risks and provide treatment tips. Currently, more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute estimates that this number will reach 4.2 million by the end of 2030 – reporting a 58 percent increase. Glaucoma can occur at any age, but is more common among older adults, above the age group of 60 years. The disease usually affects both eyes, although one may be more severely affected than the other. The condition is often called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no visible symptoms and once vision is lost, it is permanent. In fact, about 40 percent of vision can be lost without a person noticing.Other related visible symptoms that occur vary depending on the type and stage of your condition and include – blurred vision, severe headache, eye pain, eye redness, patchy blind spots in your side (peripheral) or central vision, halos around the eyes and tunnel vision in the advanced stages.

Diagnosis of this eye condition may begin with a detailed review of patient medical history and a comprehensive eye examination. Ophthalmologists may perform several tests like – tonometry (measuring intraocular pressure), visual field test (checking for areas of vision loss), pachymetry (measuring corneal thickness), gonioscopy (inspecting the drainage angle) and testing for optic nerve damage with a dilated eye examination and imaging tests. Even though the damage caused to the optic nerve cannot be reversed, regular eye exams and treatment can help slow or prevent vision loss, particularly if the disease is detected in its early stages. Initial treatment for this condition may focus on lowering the eye pressure (intraocular pressure). Treatment modalities include – prescription eye drops (Prostaglandins, beta blockers, Alpha-adrenergic agonists), oral medications, and surgery or a combination of any of these. Surgery and other therapies are performed to improve the drainage of fluid within the eye, thereby lowering pressure. These options include – laser therapy, drainage tubes, filtering surgery and minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS).

Ophthalmologists have to report the diagnosis, screening tests and other procedures using the correct medical codes. Medical billing services offered by experienced medical billing and coding companies ensure this so that accurate claim submissions are done. ICD-10 codes for glaucoma diagnosis include –

  • H40 – Glaucoma
    • H40.0 – Glaucoma suspect
    • H40.1 – Open-angle glaucoma
    • H40.2 – Primary angle-closure glaucoma
    • H40.3 – Glaucoma secondary to eye trauma
    • H40.4 – Glaucoma secondary to eye inflammation
    • H40.5 – Glaucoma secondary to other eye disorders
    • H40.6 – Glaucoma secondary to drugs
    • H40.8 – Other glaucoma
    • H40.9 – Unspecified glaucoma
  • H42 – Glaucoma in diseases classified elsewhere

As part of the campaign, healthcare centers, hospitals and local community health systems across the US will host a wide range of events like seminars, discussions, and presentations to spread the word about this silent sight-stealing disease. These programs include – connecting on social media platforms for regular updates on glaucoma research and treatments, engaging local media such as the newspapers, radio stations and television, reaching out to other eye health organizations, getting involved in your local community through inviting expert speakers, group discussions, planning a webinar and discussing glaucomawith friends and family.

Join Glaucoma Awareness Month this January. Use this awareness platform for undergoing regular eye exams to prevent unnecessary vision loss.