To spread the word about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' this month is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading source of blindness, accounting for 9%-12% of all cases of complete vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people around the world. Since the disease is initially asymptomatic, research shows that nearly 50% of patients with glaucoma are not aware of their condition.
Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, the pathway that carries images to the brain. Although glaucoma can affect people of all ages, there are certain groups that are at higher risk such as African Americans over 40 years of age, senior citizens, particularly Mexican Americans, and individuals with a family history of glaucoma.
Since blindness of this kind is irreversible, sight can only be preserved through early diagnosis. This is difficult however, because symptoms don’t present themselves before the optic nerve is damaged, and usually begin with an irreparable loss of peripheral (side) vision.
There is no treatment for glaucoma, however treatment with medication or surgery can halt the progression of the disease and prevent further vision loss. The preferred treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma and early diagnosis is vital to its’ success.
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, a mere eight percent were aware that it has no early warning signs. Only a qualified eye doctor can identify the initial signs of glaucoma, using a thorough glaucoma screening. We suggest a yearly eye exam as the best way to prevent damage from this often over-looked disease. Don’t delay in getting a glaucoma screening before it’s too late.