In an effort to spread the word about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' this month has been declared National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading source of preventable blindness, responsible for 9%-12% of all cases of blindness in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people around the world. Due to the fact that the disease has no early symptoms, research shows that close to 50% of patients with the disease are unaware of their condition.
Glaucoma is actually a category of eye diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting images to the brain. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, those at higher risk include African Americans above age 40, senior citizens, particularly of Mexican ancestry, and individuals with a family history of the disease.
Because blindness of this kind 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 start with an irreparable loss of peripheral (side) vision.
There is no treatment for glaucoma, however current methods of treatment, including medication or surgery, can halt disease progression and reduce increased loss of vision. Treatment depends upon the variation of glaucoma and early diagnosis is vital to its’ success.
According to a recent survey of the National Eye Institute of the NIH, while glaucoma was known to ninety percent of the people they surveyed, only eight percent were aware that it presents no early warning symptoms. Only an experienced optometrist can identify the initial signs of glaucoma, by means of a comprehensive glaucoma screening. An annual eye exam is your best defense against this potentially devastating disease. Don’t delay in getting a glaucoma screening before it’s too late.