To spread the word about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' this month has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading source of avoidable blindness, responsible for 9%-12% of all cases of complete vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people around the world. Due to the fact that the disease is initially asymptomatic, experts believe that close to half of those with glaucoma are not aware of their condition.
Glaucoma is actually a category of ocular diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting images to the brain. Although glaucoma can affect people of all ages, those at higher risk include African Americans above age 40, senior citizens, in particular Mexican Americans, and individuals with a family history of glaucoma.
Since vision loss of this kind is irreversible, early diagnosis of glaucoma is imperative. This is difficult however, because symptoms don’t present themselves before the optic nerve is damaged, and usually start with an irreparable loss of peripheral (side) vision.
While research is ongoing, glaucoma has no cure, however treatment with medication or surgery can reduce the progression of the disease and prevent increased vision impairment. The preferred treatment is determined based on the type of glaucoma and early diagnosis is essential to its’ success.
The NIH's National Eye Institute recently found that 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 identify the initial signs of glaucoma, through a comprehensive eye exam. We recommend a yearly eye exam as your best defense against this silent disease. Don’t delay in getting your yearly glaucoma screening before it’s too late.