To spread the word about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' this month has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading source of avoidable permanent vision loss, accounting for 9%-12% of all cases of total vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people worldwide. Because glaucoma is initially asymptomatic, experts believe that close to 50% of patients with the disease are unaware of their condition.
Glaucoma is actually a number of eye diseases that have the common affect of causing damage to the eye's optic nerve, the pathway that transmits images from the eye to the brain. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, there are particular populations that are more likely to develop it such as African Americans above age 40, senior citizens, in particular of Mexican ancestry, and individuals with a family history of the disease.
Since vision loss due to optic nerve damage can not be restored, early diagnosis of glaucoma is critical. This is difficult however, because symptoms are often not present before the optic nerve is damaged, and usually start with an irreparable loss of peripheral (side) vision.
While scientific efforts are being made, glaucoma has no cure, however treatment with medication or surgery can slow the progression of the disease and reduce further vision loss. Treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma and early detection is essential to its’ success.
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 care professional can detect the initial signs of glaucoma, through a thorough glaucoma screening. We recommend a yearly screening as your best defense against this often over-looked disease. Schedule your annual glaucoma screening today.