In an effort to create awareness about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' this month has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness, accounting for 9%-12% of all cases of blindness in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people worldwide. Due to the fact that the disease is initially asymptomatic, experts believe that close to 50% of patients with glaucoma are not aware of their condition.
Glaucoma is the name for a group of ocular diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, the pathway that transmits images to be processed in the brain. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, there are particular groups that are at higher risk such as African Americans above 40 years of age, anyone over age 60, particularly Mexican Americans, 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 occurred, often becoming apparent when peripheral (side) vision loss is perceptible.
Treatment for glaucoma is determined based on the type of glaucoma and the extent of the damage, and includes pressure-reducing eye surgery or medications, often eye drops. While scientists are working hard to find a cure, one does not currently exist and therefore proper diagnosis and treatment are vital to preserve vision. Because glaucoma is a lifelong disease, it is important 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, only eight percent were aware that it has no early warning signs. Only an experienced eye care professional can detect the early effects of glaucoma, using a thorough glaucoma screening. We recommend an annual screening as the best way to protect your vision from this silent disease. Don’t delay in getting a glaucoma screening before it’s too late.