Among eye diseases, glaucoma is probably the sneakiest. There are no symptoms of glaucoma, and the only warning sign of the disease is reduced peripheral vision. You probably will be surprised by this, but you can actually lose around 40 percent of your vision without even noticing. Unfortunately, by the time you notice, it is too late; once vision is lost, it is permanent. January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, a time that you can inform yourself and those you love about the sneakiness—and permanence—of this eye disease.
Before you can spread awareness about glaucoma, you need to know the facts. Glaucoma is related to increased pressure inside the eye, a process that is usually painless and completely unnoticeable in the early stages. Spikes in eye pressure can damage the optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting visual messages to the brain. This damage is irreparable, and vision loss will progress until glaucoma is diagnosed and treatment begins.
Yes, glaucoma is appropriately nicknamed “the sneak thief of sight.” This disease is snatching vision from 3 million Americans, and the National Eye Institute expects glaucoma statistics to rise by 58 percent by 2030. Many glaucoma sufferers are unaware that they have the disease, which means that they are losing a small fraction of their vision every day.
The most important glaucoma fact to share with your loved ones is that the vision loss is preventable. The best way to prevent glaucoma damage is by having routine comprehensive eye exams. Your ophthalmologist will examine your eyes and perform several tests to evaluate your eye health. Although there is no cure for glaucoma, there is an array of treatment options available to reduce eye pressure and preserve your vision.
Glaucoma does not affect all populations equally. Latinos are at higher risk for glaucoma, and African Americans are 6 to 8 times more likely to develop glaucoma than Caucasians. Family history also plays an essential role, so it is important that we all are aware of our individual risk for glaucoma. Make a commitment to tell your family and friends about this sneaky disease, and encourage them to make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam during Glaucoma Awareness Month (Source: Glaucoma Research Foundation).