In an effort to create awareness about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' this month has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading source of avoidable blindness, responsible for 9%-12% of all cases of blindness in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people around the world. Since the disease is initially asymptomatic, experts believe that nearly half of those with the disease are not aware of their condition.
Glaucoma is actually a number of ocular diseases that have the common affect of causing damage to the eye's optic nerve, the channel that transmits images to the brain. Although glaucoma can affect anyone, there are particular populations that are more likely to develop it such as African Americans over age 40, senior citizens, particularly Mexican Americans, and individuals with a family history of glaucoma.
Since blindness of this kind can not be restored, early diagnosis of glaucoma is imperative. This is difficult however, because symptoms are often not present before the optic nerve is damaged, often being noticed when peripheral (side) vision loss is perceptible.
While scientific efforts are underway, there is currently no cure for glaucoma, however current methods of treatment, including medication or surgery, can slow the progression of the disease and reduce increased vision impairment. Treatment is dependent upon a number of factors, which consider the type of damage and the extent of vision loss.
The NIH's National Eye Institute recently found that while ninety percent of people had heard of glaucoma, only eight percent knew that it presents no early warning symptoms. Only an experienced eye care professional can identify the initial effects of glaucoma, through a thorough glaucoma screening. A yearly eye exam is the best way to protect your vision from this often over-looked disease. Don’t delay in getting a glaucoma screening before it’s too late.