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Be In the Know About Glaucoma

In an effort to increase awareness about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' this month has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of permanent vision loss, accounting for 9%-12% of all cases of blindness in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people worldwide. Because the disease has no early symptoms, research shows that close to 50% of patients with the disease are not aware of their condition.

Glaucoma is the name for a category of ocular diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, the pathway that transmits images to the brain. Although glaucoma can affect people of all ages, those at higher risk include African Americans above 40 years of age, senior citizens, in particular Mexican Americans, and those with a family history of glaucoma.

Since blindness of this kind can not be restored, vision can only be preserved through early diagnosis. This is difficult however, because symptoms rarely manifest before the optic nerve is damaged, often becoming apparent when peripheral (side) vision is already lost.

Treatment for glaucoma is determined based on the disease characteristics and the extent of the nerve damage, and may include pressure-reducing eye surgery or medications, often eye drops. While experts are working hard to find a cure, one does not currently exist and therefore proper diagnosis and treatment are the only ways to prevent vision loss. Because glaucoma is a chronic disease, it is important to find an eye care professional experienced in this condition.

According to a recent survey of the National Eye Institute of the NIH, while ninety percent of people had heard of glaucoma, a mere eight percent were aware that it presents no early warning symptoms. Only an experienced eye doctor can identify the initial signs of glaucoma, by means of a thorough eye exam. A yearly eye exam is your best defense against this often over-looked disease. Don’t delay in scheduling your yearly glaucoma screening before it’s too late