To spread the word about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading source of avoidable 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. Because 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 group of ocular diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting images to the brain. Although glaucoma can affect anyone, there are particular groups that are at higher risk such as African Americans over 40 years of age, senior citizens, particularly of Mexican descent, and those with a family history of glaucoma.
Because blindness due to optic nerve damage is irreversible, vision can only be preserved through early diagnosis. Symptoms of the disease, however, are often not present before the optic nerve is damaged, often being noticed when peripheral (side) vision loss becomes obvious.
There is no treatment for glaucoma, however treatment with medication or surgery can slow the progression of the disease and prevent increased vision impairment. Treatment is determined based on the type of glaucoma and early detection is imperative to its’ success.
The NIH's National Eye Institute recently found that while glaucoma was known to ninety percent of the people they surveyed, a mere eight percent knew that it has no early warning signs. Only an experienced optometrist can detect the initial signs of glaucoma, using a comprehensive eye exam. An annual eye exam is the most effective way to protect your vision from this often over-looked disease. Schedule a glaucoma screening today.