January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and can cause permanent vision loss and blindness. Elevated eye pressure can damage the optic nerve, which connects the retina to the brain.
It is estimated that 2.2 million Americans have glaucoma, but only about 1.1 million know they have it. Because glaucoma is often painless and is not accompanied by symptoms until eye damage has occurred, it can be difficult to diagnose. Without warning signs and associated discomfort, it is understandable that millions of glaucoma sufferers are unaware of their condition.
Here are some facts about glaucoma that you may not know:
- According to the World Health Organization, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world.
- African Americans are 15 times more likely to be visually impaired from glaucoma than Caucasians.
- After cataracts, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African Americans.
- In the United States alone, more than 120,000 are blind from glaucoma, which accounts for 9 percent to 12 percent of all cases of blindness.
- Family history, diabetes, hypertension and severe myopia (nearsightedness) are other risk factors for glaucoma.
Comprehensive eye exams are the best prevention for glaucoma. Everyone over the age of 40 should have a full eye examination at least once every five years, but high-risk individuals need examinations more frequently. Those who are 65 or older should have a comprehensive eye exam every one to two years, or as recommended by their ophthalmologist.
Remember that eye health is affected by overall body wellness. You can help prevent glaucoma by having regular check-ups and physicals with your primary care physician. If you are diabetic or hypertensive, you need to be especially vigilant in maintaining good health since these conditions can be precursors to glaucoma.
Do your part this January to prevent glaucoma. Here are some easy ways to support Glaucoma Awareness Month:
- Schedule a comprehensive eye exam for yourself or someone you love
- Make an appointment for an annual physical with your primary care physician
- Drive a loved one to an eye appointment or doctor appointment
- Take all your prescribed medication daily
- Read an article, attend a meeting or do some research about glaucoma or another eye condition