In an effort to create awareness about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' this month is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable permanent vision loss, responsible for 9%-12% of all cases of complete vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people worldwide. Because glaucoma has no early symptoms, research shows that close to 50% of patients with glaucoma are unaware of their condition.
Glaucoma is the name for a number of eye diseases that have the common affect of causing damage to the eye's optic nerve, the channel that transmits images to the brain. Although glaucoma can affect anyone, those at higher risk include African Americans over age 40, senior citizens, in particular Mexican Americans, and individuals with a family history of glaucoma.
Because blindness of this kind is irreversible, sight can only be preserved through early diagnosis. This is difficult however, because symptoms 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 amount of damage, and may include pressure-reducing eye surgery or medications, often eye drops. While scientists are working hard to find a cure, it has not yet been found and therefore early diagnosis and treatment are the only ways to preserve vision. 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 knew that it has no early warning signs. Only a qualified eye doctor can identify the initial effects of glaucoma, through a thorough glaucoma screening. We suggest a yearly eye exam as your best defense against this often over-looked disease. Don’t delay in scheduling your annual comprehensive eye exam before it’s too late.