To create awareness about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' this month has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading source of permanent vision loss, accounting for 9%-12% of all cases of complete vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people around the world. Because glaucoma is initially asymptomatic, experts believe that nearly 50% of patients with glaucoma are not aware of their illness.
Glaucoma is the name for a group of ocular diseases that have the common affect of causing damage to the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting images to the brain. Although glaucoma can affect anyone, those at higher risk include African Americans over age 40, anyone over age 60, in particular of Mexican ancestry, and individuals with a family history of glaucoma.
Since vision loss of this kind can not be restored, vision can only be preserved through early diagnosis. This is difficult however, because symptoms rarely manifest before optical nerve damage has occurred, often becoming apparent when peripheral (side) vision is already gone.
Treatment for glaucoma is determined based on the disease characteristics and the extent of the vision loss, and includes medication (usually prescription eye drops) or surgery. Although experts are working hard to find a cure, it has not yet been found and therefore early diagnosis and treatment are vital to prevent vision loss. Since glaucoma is a lifelong disease, it is important to find an eye care professional experienced in this condition.
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 were aware that it presents no early warning symptoms. Only an experienced eye care professional can detect the early effects of glaucoma, using a thorough eye exam. We recommend a yearly eye exam as the most effective way to prevent damage from this often over-looked disease. Contact us to schedule a glaucoma screening today.