In order to spread the word about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' January has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of permanent vision loss, accounting for 9%-12% of all cases of total vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people around the world. Because glaucoma has no early symptoms, research shows that nearly half of those with the disease are not aware of their condition.
Glaucoma is the name for a group of ocular diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying images between the eye and the brain. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, there are certain populations that are at higher risk such as African Americans above 40 years of age, anyone over age 60, particularly Mexican Americans, and those with a family history of the disease.
Since blindness due to optic nerve damage is irreversible, early diagnosis of glaucoma is imperative. Symptoms of the disease, however, don’t present themselves before optical nerve damage has occurred, often being noticed when peripheral (side) vision is already lost.
There is no treatment for glaucoma, however treatment with medication or surgery can slow the progression of the disease and reduce increased loss of vision. The preferred treatment is dependent upon a number of factors, which include the type of glaucoma and the advancement of the disease.
The NIH's National Eye Institute recently found that while glaucoma was known to ninety percent of the people they surveyed, only eight percent were aware that it presents no early warning symptoms. Only a qualified eye doctor can identify the early effects of glaucoma, by means of a comprehensive glaucoma screening. A yearly glaucoma screening is the most effective way to prevent damage from this silent disease. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam today.