To increase awareness about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' January has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading cause of avoidable permanent vision loss, responsible for 9%-12% of all cases of complete vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people around the world. Because glaucoma is initially asymptomatic, experts believe that close to half of those with glaucoma are not aware of their condition.
Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, those at higher risk include African Americans over 40 years of age, anyone over age 60, in particular Mexican Americans, and individuals with a family history of glaucoma.
Since vision loss due to optic nerve damage can not be restored, sight can only be preserved through early diagnosis. This is difficult however, because symptoms don’t present themselves before damage has taken place, and usually start with an irreversible loss of peripheral (side) vision.
There is no treatment for glaucoma, however current methods of treatment, including medication or surgery, can slow the progression of the disease and prevent further vision impairment. The preferred treatment is dependent upon a few factors, including the type of damage and the advancement of the disease.
The NIH's National Eye Institute recently found that while ninety percent of people had heard of glaucoma, only eight percent were aware that it has no early warning signs. Only an experienced optometrist can identify the initial signs of glaucoma, through a comprehensive eye exam. We recommend a yearly screening as your best defense against this often over-looked disease. Schedule your annual comprehensive eye exam today.