In order to create awareness about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' January has been declared National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading cause of avoidable blindness, 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 half of those with glaucoma are unaware 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 anyone can develop glaucoma, there are particular populations that are more likely to develop it such as African Americans above 40 years of age, senior citizens, in particular Mexican Americans, and individuals with a family history of glaucoma.
Since blindness due to optic nerve damage can not be restored, vision can only be preserved through early diagnosis. This is difficult however, because symptoms are often not present before damage has occurred, and usually start with an irreversible loss of peripheral (side) vision.
While research is ongoing, glaucoma has no cure, however treatment with medication or surgery can slow disease progression and reduce increased vision loss. Treatment is dependent upon a number of factors, which include the type of damage and the advancement of the disease.
The NIH's National Eye Institute recently found that while ninety percent of people had heard of glaucoma, only eight percent were aware that it has no early warning signs. Only a qualified optometrist can identify the initial signs of glaucoma, using a comprehensive glaucoma screening. We recommend a yearly eye exam as your best defense against this silent disease. Don’t delay in getting your annual comprehensive eye exam before it’s too late.