To increase awareness about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' 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. Due to the fact that the disease has no early symptoms, experts believe that close to half of those with glaucoma are unaware of their illness.
Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting images to be processed in the brain. Although glaucoma can affect anyone, those at higher risk include African Americans above age 40, anyone over age 60, particularly of Mexican ancestry, and those with a family history of the disease.
Since blindness of this kind is irreversible, early diagnosis of glaucoma is crucial. This is difficult however, because symptoms are often not present before optical nerve damage has occurred, often being noticed when peripheral (side) vision is already gone.
While research is ongoing, there is currently no cure for glaucoma, however current methods of treatment, including medication or surgery, can reduce disease progression and prevent increased loss of vision. Treatment is dependent upon the type of glaucoma and early diagnosis is critical to its’ success.
According to a recent survey of the National Eye Institute of the NIH, while ninety percent of people had heard of glaucoma, a mere eight percent were aware that it has no early warning signs. Only a qualified eye care professional can detect the initial signs of glaucoma, through a thorough glaucoma screening. We recommend an annual eye exam as the most effective way to protect your vision from this potentially devastating disease. Don’t delay in getting a comprehensive eye exam before it’s too late.