In an effort to spread the word about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' January has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable permanent vision loss, responsible for 9%-12% of all cases of blindness in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people worldwide. Since the disease is initially asymptomatic, experts believe that nearly half of those with glaucoma are unaware of their illness.
Glaucoma is actually a group of ocular diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying images between the eye and the brain. Although glaucoma can affect people of all ages, there are particular groups that are more likely to develop it such as African Americans above age 40, senior citizens, particularly Mexican Americans, and individuals with a family history of the disease.
Because blindness of this kind is irreversible, early diagnosis of glaucoma is critical. This is difficult however, because symptoms rarely manifest before damage has occurred, often being noticed when peripheral (side) vision loss is perceptible.
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 reduce increased loss of vision. The preferred treatment depends upon a number of factors, which include the type of glaucoma and the advancement of the disease.
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, only eight percent were aware that it has no early warning signs. Only a qualified optometrist can identify the early signs of glaucoma, by means of a thorough eye exam. We recommend an annual screening as your best defense against this potentially devastating disease. Contact us to schedule your annual comprehensive eye exam today.