In order to increase awareness about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' this month is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of 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. Since glaucoma is initially asymptomatic, research shows that nearly 50% of patients with glaucoma are not aware of their illness.
Glaucoma is actually a number of eye diseases that have the common affect of causing damage to the eye's optic nerve, the pathway that carries images between the eye and the brain. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, there are certain populations that are more likely to develop it such as African Americans above age 40, anyone over age 60, particularly of Mexican descent, and those with a family history of glaucoma.
Because vision loss of this kind is irreversible, early diagnosis of glaucoma is essential. This is difficult however, because symptoms don’t present themselves before optical nerve damage has occurred, often becoming apparent when peripheral (side) vision loss becomes obvious.
Treatment for glaucoma depends on the type of glaucoma and the extent of the vision loss, and includes medication (usually prescription eye drops) or surgery. While scientists are working hard to find a cure, it has not yet been found and therefore proper diagnosis and treatment are vital to preserve vision. Since glaucoma is a lifelong disease, 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 ninety percent of people had heard of glaucoma, a mere eight percent knew that it presents no early warning symptoms. Only a qualified optometrist can identify the initial signs of glaucoma, by means of a comprehensive eye exam. A yearly glaucoma screening is the best way to protect your vision from this potentially devastating disease. Don’t delay in getting a comprehensive eye exam before it’s too late.