In order to increase awareness about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' this month is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading source of preventable permanent vision loss, responsible for 9%-12% of all cases of blindness in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people around the world. Since the disease has no early symptoms, research shows that nearly half of those with glaucoma are unaware of their condition.
Glaucoma is actually a category of ocular diseases that have the common affect of causing damage to the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying images to the brain. Although glaucoma can affect anyone, there are certain populations that are at higher risk such as African Americans above 40 years of age, senior citizens, in particular of Mexican descent, and those with a family history of the disease.
Since vision loss of this kind is irreversible, early diagnosis of glaucoma is critical. This is difficult however, because symptoms don’t present themselves before the optic nerve is damaged, and usually begin with an irreversible loss of peripheral (side) vision.
Treatment for glaucoma is determined based on the disease characteristics and the extent of the nerve damage, and includes pressure-reducing eye surgery or medications, often eye drops. While scientists are researching a cure, one does not currently exist and therefore proper diagnosis and treatment are essential to preserve vision. Since glaucoma develops gradually and requires constant attention, it is important to find an eye doctor experienced in this condition.
According to a recent survey of the National Eye Institute of the NIH, while ninety percent of people had heard of glaucoma, only eight percent knew that it has no early warning signs. Only a qualified eye doctor can identify the early effects of glaucoma, through a comprehensive glaucoma screening. We suggest a yearly eye exam as your best defense against this silent disease. Don’t delay in scheduling your yearly comprehensive eye exam before it’s too late.