To spread the word about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' January has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of permanent vision loss, responsible for 9%-12% of all cases of blindness in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people worldwide. Due to the fact that the disease has no early symptoms, experts believe that nearly 50% of patients with glaucoma are not aware of their condition.
Glaucoma is actually a number of ocular diseases that have the common affect of causing damage to the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying images between the eye and the brain. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, there are certain populations that are at higher risk such as African Americans above 40 years of age, anyone over age 60, in particular of Mexican ancestry, and individuals with a family history of the disease.
Because vision loss due to optic nerve damage can not be restored, sight can only be preserved through early diagnosis. 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.
There is no treatment for glaucoma, however current methods of treatment, including medication or surgery, can halt disease progression and prevent further vision impairment. Treatment is dependent upon a few variables, which consider the type of damage and the advancement of the disease.
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 presents no early warning symptoms. Only an experienced optometrist can detect the early signs of glaucoma, by means of a thorough eye exam. A yearly eye exam is your best defense against this potentially devastating disease. Don’t delay in getting a glaucoma screening before it’s too late.