To increase awareness about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' this month has been declared National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading source of blindness, accounting for 9%-12% of all cases of total vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people worldwide. Since glaucoma has no early symptoms, experts believe that nearly 50% of patients with the disease are unaware of their illness.
Glaucoma is actually a number of ocular diseases that have the common affect of causing damage to the eye's optic nerve, the pathway that transmits images between the eye and the brain. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, there are certain populations that are at higher risk such as African Americans above 40 years of age, senior citizens, particularly Mexican Americans, and those with a family history of glaucoma.
Because vision loss 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 the optic nerve is damaged, often being noticed when peripheral (side) vision is already lost.
While research is ongoing, there is currently no cure for glaucoma, however current methods of treatment, including medication or surgery, can slow the progression of the disease and prevent further vision loss. The preferred treatment depends upon a number of variables, which consider the type of damage 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 eye care professional can detect the early effects of glaucoma, by means of a thorough eye exam. We recommend a yearly eye exam as the best way to protect your vision from this silent disease. Contact us to schedule a glaucoma screening today.