To create awareness about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading source of preventable permanent vision loss, accounting for 9%-12% of all cases of total vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people around the world. Since glaucoma is initially asymptomatic, research shows that nearly 50% of patients with glaucoma are not aware of their illness.
Glaucoma is actually a number of eye diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying images to be processed in the brain. Although glaucoma can affect anyone, there are certain groups that are at higher risk such as African Americans over 40 years of age, anyone over age 60, particularly Mexican Americans, and those with a family history of glaucoma.
Because blindness of this kind is irreversible, early diagnosis of glaucoma is imperative. This is difficult however, because symptoms are often not present before the optic nerve is damaged, and usually begin with an irreversible loss of peripheral (side) vision.
There is no treatment for glaucoma, however current methods of treatment, including medication or surgery, can slow the progression of the disease and prevent increased vision impairment. The preferred treatment is dependent upon a number of factors, which include the type of glaucoma and the advancement of the disease.
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 eye doctor can detect the early signs of glaucoma, using a comprehensive glaucoma screening. An annual glaucoma screening is your best defense against this often over-looked disease. Don’t delay in scheduling your yearly comprehensive eye exam before it’s too late.