The most terrifying things in life are the ones that strike us unawares; they blindside us. That’s why glaucoma is such a frightening disease and why January has been designated National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in this country, and it has already claimed the vision of 120,000 Americans and nearly 4 million others have earlier stages of the disease. Worst of all people who have it exhibit no symptoms and can often lose 40 percent of their vision before noticing that there’s a problem.
While glaucoma can strike in people of any age it’s most prevalent among those who are middle aged and older. It is caused by pressure build up inside the eye, which deals irreversible damage to the optic nerve. The first detectable sign that you might have glaucoma is the loss of your peripheral vision, but that is already an advanced stage of the condition.
An important preventative measure is to know your risk level for the disease. Glaucoma is more common among people of African, Asian and Hispanic descent, as well as diabetics, people over sixty, or anyone with severe nearsightedness.
Those at higher risk include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent. Other high-risk groups include: people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted. Regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma, and may help to prevent unnecessary vision loss.
While no cure exists for glaucoma there are medicines and procedures that can slow the progress of the disease and the accompanying vision loss. But in order to get treatment there needs to be an early detection system. That’s where your local eye doctor comes in. Getting an eye exam can help catch glaucoma, and other diseases, before your vision deteriorates. Don’t take risks with your health and pass the information along to a friend. For more information on glaucoma and research into a cure, visit www.glaucoma.org.