In an effort to create awareness about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' January has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable 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, research shows that nearly 50% of patients with glaucoma are unaware of their illness.
Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that have the common affect of causing damage to the eye's optic nerve, the pathway that transmits images between the eye and the brain. Although glaucoma can affect anyone, there are particular groups that are more likely to develop it such as African Americans above age 40, senior citizens, particularly of Mexican ancestry, and individuals with a family history of glaucoma.
Since vision loss due to optic nerve damage can not be restored, early diagnosis of glaucoma is essential. Symptoms of the disease, however, rarely manifest before damage has taken place, and usually start with an irreversible loss of peripheral (side) vision.
There is no treatment for glaucoma, however current methods of treatment, including medication or surgery, can halt disease progression and reduce increased vision loss. The preferred treatment is dependent upon the type of glaucoma and early diagnosis is critical 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 a qualified eye doctor can detect the initial effects of glaucoma, using a thorough eye exam. We recommend a yearly eye exam as your best defense against this potentially devastating disease. Don’t delay in scheduling a comprehensive eye exam before it’s too late.