To create awareness about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading source of blindness, responsible for 9%-12% of all cases of complete 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 illness.
Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting images to the brain. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, there are certain populations that are more likely to develop it such as African Americans above 40 years of age, anyone over age 60, particularly of Mexican descent, and individuals with a family history of the disease.
Since vision loss of this kind can not be restored, early diagnosis of glaucoma is critical. Symptoms of the disease, however, rarely manifest before the optic nerve is damaged, and usually start with an irreversible loss of peripheral (side) vision.
Treatment for glaucoma is determined based on the disease characteristics and the amount of vision loss, and may include 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 preserve vision. Since glaucoma develops gradually and requires constant attention, it is preferable to find an eye care professional you trust.
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 knew that it presents no early warning symptoms. Only an experienced eye care professional can detect the initial effects of glaucoma, through a thorough eye exam. We recommend a yearly eye exam as the most effective way to prevent damage from this potentially devastating disease. Schedule your yearly comprehensive eye exam today.