In order to spread the word about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' this month has been declared National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading source of 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. Because the disease has no early symptoms, research shows that close to 50% of patients with glaucoma are not aware of their illness.
Glaucoma is actually a group of ocular diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, the channel that transmits images between the eye and the brain. Although glaucoma can affect people of all ages, those at higher risk include African Americans above 40 years of age, anyone over age 60, particularly Mexican Americans, and those with a family history of the disease.
Since blindness due to optic nerve damage is irreversible, early diagnosis of glaucoma is essential. Symptoms of the disease, however, rarely manifest before the optic nerve is damaged, often being noticed when peripheral (side) vision is already gone.
Treatment for glaucoma is determined based on the type of glaucoma and the extent of the vision loss, and includes pressure-reducing eye surgery or medications, often eye drops. Although scientists are researching a cure, it has not yet been found and therefore proper diagnosis and treatment are essential to preserve vision. Because glaucoma develops gradually and requires constant attention, it is preferable to find an eye doctor you trust.
The NIH's National Eye Institute recently found that while ninety percent of people had heard of glaucoma, only eight percent knew that it presents no early warning symptoms. Only a qualified eye doctor can identify the early signs of glaucoma, by means of a comprehensive glaucoma screening. We recommend an annual screening as the most effective way to protect your vision from this silent disease. Contact us to schedule a comprehensive eye exam today.