In order to spread the word about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' January has been declared National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness, accounting 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 glaucoma are unaware of their illness.
Glaucoma is the name for a number of ocular diseases that have the common affect of causing damage to the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying images to be processed in the brain. Although glaucoma can affect people of all ages, there are certain groups that are at higher risk such as African Americans over age 40, anyone over age 60, particularly of Mexican ancestry, and those with a family history of glaucoma.
Since vision loss due to optic nerve damage is irreversible, sight can only be preserved through early diagnosis. Symptoms of the disease, however, don’t present themselves before the optic nerve is damaged, and usually start with an irreparable loss of peripheral (side) vision.
Treatment for glaucoma depends on the type of glaucoma and the extent of the damage, and may include pressure-reducing eye surgery or medications, often eye drops. Although scientists are researching a cure, one does not currently exist and therefore early diagnosis and treatment are the only ways to prevent vision loss. Because glaucoma develops gradually and requires constant attention, it is important to find an eye care professional you trust.
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, a mere eight percent were aware that it has no early warning signs. Only an experienced eye doctor can detect the early signs of glaucoma, by means of a comprehensive eye exam. We recommend a yearly screening as the best way to protect your vision from this potentially devastating disease. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam today.