In order to create awareness about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' this month has been declared National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of permanent vision loss, accounting for 9%-12% of all cases of complete vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people worldwide. Since glaucoma is initially asymptomatic, experts believe that nearly half of those with glaucoma are unaware of their illness.
Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye diseases that have the common affect of causing damage to the eye's optic nerve, the pathway that carries images to be processed in the brain. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, those at higher risk include African Americans above age 40, anyone over age 60, in particular of Mexican ancestry, and those with a family history of the disease.
Because blindness of this kind is irreversible, early diagnosis of glaucoma is essential. Symptoms of the disease, however, rarely manifest before optical nerve damage has occurred, often being noticed when peripheral (side) vision loss is perceptible.
Treatment for glaucoma is determined based on the type of glaucoma and the extent of the damage, and may include medication (usually prescription eye drops) or surgery. While experts are working hard to find a cure, it has not yet been found and therefore early diagnosis and treatment are vital to preserve vision. Since glaucoma develops gradually and requires constant attention, it is important to find an eye care professional you trust.
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 optometrist can identify the early effects of glaucoma, using a comprehensive eye exam. An annual eye exam is your best defense against this potentially devastating disease. Contact us to schedule your annual glaucoma screening today.