National Glaucoma Awareness Month
Glaucoma. Often dubbed the “sneak thief of night”. And for good reason…
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness.
It has no symptoms.
And It has no cure.
Half of the people with this disease don’t know they have it.
Consequently, by the time symptoms are noticed and dealt with, there is usually already significant and irreversible damage to their sight.
January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Because— while there may be many scary factors about this eye disease— there are also many ways for people to recognize it quicker, and to stop or slow its blinding progression.
One of the simplest ways to combat this disease is to become informed about it. Glaucoma is the damaging of the optic nerve (the eye’s connection to the brain). Currently, nearly three million Americans are affected by it. The number is on the rise, however, and is projected to double before 2050. (1)
The reason it is so often missed before major vision loss has occurred, is because the damage starts with the peripheral (side vision).
Currently, there are no known ways to prevent Glaucoma. But once it is discovered, doctors use drops, medication and/or surgery to fight its effects. While 10% of patients undergoing treatment will still lose their sight, many find that their vision is protected longer or preserved completely.
Because early detection is key in fighting this disease, people need to understand the risk factors for Glaucoma:
- Age. The number one risk factor is age, with the majority of glaucoma patients being 60 or older.
- Family history. There is 9 times the chance of getting glaucoma, when a sibling or parent has been diagnosed.
- Race. Those with an African and Hispanic heritage are 3 times as likely to get this disease, with Asians also having a greater chance.
- Eye Injuries. If trauma has occurred to the eye, it increases the likelihood of glaucoma, later on.
- Medical conditions. Studies have shown that individuals with diabetes, raised blood pressure, and heart disease are more likely to develop glaucoma.
Causes and cures for Glaucoma are being studied earnestly by researchers. Meanwhile, doctors and scientists agree that the best way to recognize this disease is through routine comprehensive eye exams. Adults and children over 6 years of age should be receiving these exams every two years, and those over 60 are advised to have their eyes checked annually. Through patient history and vision testing, optometrists are able recognize the risk factors and vision changes that lead to the diagnosis of Glaucoma.
Glaucoma may be known for its ability to overtake eyesight with no warnings, but in reality there are warning signs taking place under the surface. Be aware of your risks, and be diligent to show up at your eye exams! These two basic measures are worth your vision.