To spread the word about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' this month has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading source of permanent vision loss, responsible for 9%-12% of all cases of complete vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people worldwide. Since glaucoma has no early symptoms, research shows that close to 50% of patients with the disease are not aware of their illness.
Glaucoma is the name for a number of eye diseases that have the common affect of causing damage to the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting images to be processed in 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, in particular Mexican Americans, and individuals with a family history of the disease.
Because blindness due to optic nerve damage can not be restored, sight can only be preserved through early diagnosis. This is difficult however, because symptoms are often not present before optical nerve damage has occurred, and usually begin with an irreversible loss of peripheral (side) vision.
There is no treatment for glaucoma, however treatment with medication or surgery can slow disease progression and reduce further vision loss. The preferred treatment is dependent upon a number of variables, which include the type of glaucoma and the advancement of the disease.
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 presents no early warning symptoms. Only a qualified optometrist can detect the early effects of glaucoma, using a thorough eye exam. A yearly glaucoma screening is the most effective way to protect your vision from this silent disease. Don’t delay in scheduling your annual glaucoma screening before it’s too late.