To create awareness about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' January has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading source of blindness, responsible for 9%-12% of all cases of complete vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people worldwide. Due to the fact that the disease has no early symptoms, research shows that close to half of those with glaucoma are unaware of their illness.
Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting images to the brain. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, there are particular groups that are at higher risk such as African Americans above 40 years of age, senior citizens, in particular of Mexican ancestry, and individuals with a family history of glaucoma.
Since vision loss of this kind is irreversible, early diagnosis of glaucoma is imperative. This is difficult however, because symptoms rarely manifest before optical nerve damage has taken place, often being noticed when peripheral (side) vision is already lost.
While research is ongoing, glaucoma has no cure, however treatment with medication or surgery can slow the progression of the disease and prevent increased loss of vision. Treatment depends upon the variation of glaucoma and early diagnosis is critical to its’ success.
The NIH's National Eye Institute recently found that while glaucoma was known to ninety percent of the people they surveyed, only eight percent were aware that it has no early warning signs. Only a qualified eye care professional can identify the initial effects of glaucoma, through a thorough glaucoma screening. We recommend an annual screening as your best defense against this silent disease. Don’t delay in scheduling your yearly glaucoma screening before it’s too late.