To spread the word about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' this month has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading source of preventable permanent vision loss, responsible for 9%-12% of all cases of total vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people around the world. Because the disease has no early symptoms, 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 have the common affect of causing damage to the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain. Although glaucoma can affect people of all ages, those at higher risk include African Americans above age 40, anyone over age 60, particularly of Mexican descent, and individuals with a family history of glaucoma.
Since blindness due to optic nerve damage can not be restored, early diagnosis of glaucoma is essential. This is difficult however, because symptoms rarely manifest before optical nerve damage has occurred, often being noticed when peripheral (side) vision is already gone.
Treatment for glaucoma is determined based on the disease characteristics and the amount of vision loss, and includes pressure-reducing eye surgery or medications, often eye drops. While scientists are researching a cure, one does not currently exist 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.
The NIH's National Eye Institute recently found that while glaucoma was known to ninety percent of the people they surveyed, a mere eight percent were aware that it has no early warning signs. Only an experienced optometrist can detect the initial effects of glaucoma, using a thorough glaucoma screening. We recommend an annual screening as your best defense against this silent disease. Contact us to schedule your yearly comprehensive eye exam today.