In order to increase awareness about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' January has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading cause of avoidable blindness, responsible for 9%-12% of all cases of blindness in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people around the world. Since glaucoma is initially asymptomatic, research shows that nearly half of those with the disease are not aware of their condition.
Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye diseases that have the common affect of causing damage to the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting images to the brain. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, there are particular populations that are more likely to develop it such as African Americans over age 40, anyone over age 60, particularly of Mexican ancestry, and those with a family history of glaucoma.
Because vision loss due to optic nerve damage is irreversible, sight can only be preserved through early diagnosis. This is difficult however, because symptoms are often not present before optical nerve damage has occurred, and usually start with an irreparable loss of peripheral (side) vision.
Treatment for glaucoma is determined based on the disease characteristics and the amount of nerve damage, and may include medication (usually prescription eye drops) or surgery. While experts are working hard to find a cure, it has not yet been found and therefore early diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent vision loss. Since glaucoma is a lifelong disease, it is preferable to find an eye care professional experienced in this condition.
According to a recent survey of the National Eye Institute of the NIH, while glaucoma was known to ninety percent of the people they surveyed, a mere eight percent knew that it has no early warning signs. Only a qualified eye doctor can identify the early effects of glaucoma, by means of a thorough eye exam. We recommend an annual eye exam as your best defense against this often over-looked disease. Contact us to schedule a glaucoma screening today.