We are nearing the end of Glaucoma Awareness Month
January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month so this is an important time to spread the word about this sight-stealing disease.
More than 3 million people in the United States and over 60 million people worldwide have glaucoma and the National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030. Experts estimate that half of them don't know they have it.
Glaucoma is an eye disorder leading to progressive damage to the optic nerve. It is also a sneaky thief of sight since there are no symptoms for most forms of the disease and once vision is lost, it's permanent.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. It is more common among African-Americans and Hispanics and also siblings of persons diagnosed with glaucoma have a significantly increased risk of having glaucoma. Other high-risk groups include people over 60, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted.
The most common form of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, is associated with an increase in the fluid pressure inside the eye. This increase in pressure may cause progressive damage to the optic nerve and loss of nerve fibers. Many people do not become aware they have the condition until significant vision loss has occurred. It initially affects peripheral or side vision, but can advance to central vision loss. If left untreated, glaucoma may even lead to blindness.
A less common type of glaucoma, acute angle closure glaucoma, usually occurs abruptly due to a rapid increase of pressure in the eye. Symptoms may include severe eye pain, nausea, redness in the eye, seeing colored rings around lights, and blurred vision. This condition is an ocular emergency, and medical attention should be sought immediately, as severe vision loss can occur quickly.
Glaucoma cannot currently be prevented, but if diagnosed and treated early it can usually be controlled. Medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination. Regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma. Then if you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately.