To spread the word about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' January has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of permanent vision loss, responsible for 9%-12% of all cases of total vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people worldwide. Because the disease is initially asymptomatic, experts believe that close to 50% of patients with the disease are not aware of their condition.
Glaucoma is actually a category of ocular diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting images to be processed in the brain. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, those at higher risk include African Americans above age 40, senior citizens, in particular of Mexican descent, and those with a family history of glaucoma.
Since vision loss of this kind can not be restored, vision can only be preserved through early diagnosis. This is difficult however, because symptoms rarely manifest before damage has taken place, and usually begin with an irreparable loss of peripheral (side) vision.
Treatment for glaucoma depends on the disease characteristics and the amount of vision loss, and includes pressure-reducing eye surgery or medications, often eye drops. Although experts are working hard to find a cure, one does not currently exist and therefore early diagnosis and treatment are vital to preserve vision. Since glaucoma is a chronic disease, it is important to find an eye doctor experienced in this condition.
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 a qualified eye doctor can identify the initial signs of glaucoma, through a comprehensive eye exam. A yearly glaucoma screening is the best way to protect your vision from this potentially devastating disease. Contact us to schedule a comprehensive eye exam today.