In an effort to spread the word about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' January has been declared National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading cause of avoidable permanent vision loss, responsible for 9%-12% of all cases of total vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people around the world. Because the disease has no early symptoms, experts believe that nearly half of those with glaucoma are unaware of their illness.
Glaucoma is actually a number of ocular diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting images to be processed in the brain. Although glaucoma can affect anyone, those at higher risk include African Americans above 40 years of age, senior citizens, in particular of Mexican ancestry, and individuals with a family history of the disease.
Since blindness of this kind can not be restored, early diagnosis of glaucoma is imperative. Symptoms of the disease, however, don’t present themselves before damage has taken place, and usually start with an irreversible loss of peripheral (side) vision.
Treatment for glaucoma is determined based on the type of glaucoma and the extent of the vision loss, and may include pressure-reducing eye surgery or medications, often eye drops. While scientists are researching a cure, it has not yet been found and therefore proper diagnosis and treatment are the only ways to prevent vision loss. Since glaucoma develops gradually and requires constant attention, it is preferable to find an eye care professional you trust.
The NIH's National Eye Institute recently found that while ninety percent of people had heard of glaucoma, a mere eight percent were aware that it has no early warning signs. Only an experienced optometrist can detect the early effects of glaucoma, through a thorough glaucoma screening. We suggest a yearly screening as the most effective way to prevent damage from this silent disease. Don’t delay in scheduling a comprehensive eye exam before it’s too late.