In order to spread the word about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' January has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading source of 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. Because glaucoma is initially asymptomatic, experts believe that nearly half of those with glaucoma are not aware of their condition.
Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain. Although glaucoma can affect people of all ages, there are particular populations that are more likely to develop it such as African Americans over 40 years of age, senior citizens, particularly of Mexican ancestry, and individuals with a family history of glaucoma.
Since blindness of this kind is irreversible, vision can only be preserved through early diagnosis. This is difficult however, because symptoms don’t present themselves before damage has taken place, often becoming apparent when peripheral (side) vision is already lost.
Treatment for glaucoma depends on the type of glaucoma and the extent of the vision loss, and may include pressure-reducing eye surgery or medications, often eye drops. Although scientists are researching a cure, one does not currently exist and therefore early diagnosis and treatment are vital to prevent vision loss. Because glaucoma develops gradually and requires constant attention, it is preferable to find an eye doctor experienced in this condition.
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, only eight percent were aware that it has no early warning signs. Only an experienced eye care professional can identify the initial signs of glaucoma, using a thorough glaucoma screening. An annual glaucoma screening is your best defense against this often over-looked disease. Contact us to schedule your yearly comprehensive eye exam today.