In an effort to create awareness about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' this month has been declared National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading source of blindness, accounting for 9%-12% of all cases of blindness in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people around the world. Due to the fact that the disease has no early symptoms, research shows that close to 50% of patients with the disease are not aware of their illness.
Glaucoma is the name for a category of ocular 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, there are particular populations that are at higher risk such as African Americans above age 40, senior citizens, in particular of Mexican descent, and those with a family history of glaucoma.
Since vision loss due to optic nerve damage is irreversible, early diagnosis of glaucoma is essential. This is difficult however, because symptoms are often not present before damage has taken place, often being noticed when peripheral (side) vision is already lost.
Treatment for glaucoma depends on the type of glaucoma and the extent of the nerve damage, and includes pressure-reducing eye surgery or medications, often eye drops. While experts are researching a cure, one does not currently exist and therefore early diagnosis and treatment are the only ways to preserve vision. Since glaucoma is a lifelong disease, it is preferable to find an eye care professional you trust.
According to a recent survey of the National Eye Institute of the NIH, while ninety percent of people had heard of glaucoma, only eight percent were aware that it has no early warning signs. Only an experienced eye care professional can identify the initial signs of glaucoma, using a comprehensive eye exam. We suggest an annual eye exam as your best defense against this silent disease. Don’t delay in getting a glaucoma screening before it’s too late.