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January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month and we find it pertinent to educate the public on what they can do to help save their vision. Unfortunately, there is no cure for glaucoma. But the good news is that if detected and treated early, the effects of vision loss can be diminished. Currently, it’s estimated that more than 60 million people globally have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will have over a 50% increase by 2030 and experts estimate that half of them don’t know they have it. We cannot stress the importance of regular eye exams, as fortunately, glaucoma can be detected through an eye exam before a patient notices any symptoms, by the time symptoms start to appear, some permanent damage to the eye has usually occurred.
It’s called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms, no noticeable vision loss, no pain, and once vision is lost, it’s permanent. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing. The World Health Organization estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma and its the 2nd leading cause of blindness in the world and the leading cause of blindness in African American and Hispanic populations in America. Glaucoma is 6 to 8 times more common in African Americans than Caucasians. Combined with our aging population, we can see an epidemic of blindness looming if we don’t raise awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations to preserve vision.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning. Although the most common forms primarily affect the middle-aged and the elderly, glaucoma can affect people of all ages. It is caused when the pressure of the fluid in the eye is raised, this causes damage to the optic nerve; this nerve sends information from the eyes to the brain. When the optic nerve is damaged, peripheral vision begins to diminish. If left untreated, over time, glaucoma may also damage central vision. Unfortunately, once vision is lost to glaucoma, it cannot be restored. Vision loss can be lessened, however, if glaucoma is detected and treated early.
There are many risk factors for glaucoma including:
Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost. The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination. Then, if you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness among African-Americans. And among Hispanics in older age groups, the risk of glaucoma is nearly as high as that for African-Americans. Also, siblings of persons diagnosed with glaucoma have a significantly increased risk of having glaucoma. Talk to friends and family about glaucoma. If you have glaucoma, don’t keep it a secret. Let your family members know.
Talk to friends and family about glaucoma. If you have glaucoma, don’t keep it a secret. Let your family members know.