In an effort to spread the word about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' January has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading source 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 worldwide. Since the disease has no early symptoms, research shows that nearly 50% of patients with the disease are not aware of their illness.
Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that have the common affect of causing damage to the eye's optic nerve, the pathway that carries images between the eye and the brain. Although glaucoma can affect anyone, there are particular populations that are at higher risk such as African Americans above age 40, anyone over age 60, in particular of Mexican descent, and those with a family history of the disease.
Because blindness due to optic nerve damage is irreversible, early diagnosis of glaucoma is essential. Symptoms of the disease, however, don’t present themselves before optical nerve damage has occurred, often being noticed when peripheral (side) vision loss is perceptible.
Treatment for glaucoma depends on the disease characteristics and the extent of the damage, and includes pressure-reducing eye surgery or medications, often eye drops. While experts are researching a cure, it has not yet been found and therefore early diagnosis and treatment are vital to preserve vision. Because glaucoma is a lifelong disease, it is important to find an eye doctor 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, only eight percent were aware that it has no early warning signs. Only an experienced optometrist can identify the initial signs of glaucoma, by means of a comprehensive glaucoma screening. We suggest an annual eye exam as the most effective way to prevent damage from this often over-looked disease. Contact us to schedule your yearly glaucoma screening today.