To spread the word about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' this month 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 around the world. Since the disease has no early symptoms, research shows that nearly 50% of patients with the disease are not aware of their illness.
Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, the pathway that carries images between the eye and the brain. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, those at higher risk include African Americans over 40 years of age, anyone over age 60, particularly Mexican Americans, and individuals with a family history of the disease.
Since blindness of this kind is irreversible, early diagnosis of glaucoma is imperative. Symptoms of the disease, however, rarely manifest before the optic nerve is damaged, often being noticed when peripheral (side) vision is already gone.
While scientific efforts are being made, there is currently no cure for glaucoma, however treatment with medication or surgery can slow the progression of the disease and reduce increased loss of vision. The preferred treatment is determined based on a number of variables, which include 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, only eight percent knew that it presents no early warning symptoms. Only an experienced optometrist can identify the initial signs of glaucoma, using a thorough eye exam. We recommend an annual eye exam as the best way to prevent damage from this often over-looked disease. Contact us to schedule your yearly glaucoma screening today.