Often, once a patient has been diagnosed with glaucoma, he or she has already lost some of their vision. In fact, glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight”, due to the fact that there are no noticeable symptoms at first. Vision loss is so gradual, that up to 40 percent can be lost before the patient realizes something is wrong.
Glaucoma actually refers to a group of eye diseases, rather than one specific ailment. For various reasons, the optic nerve is damaged, leading to a gradual worsening of vision and eventual blindness. Glaucoma primarily affects middle-aged and older people, although less common forms of the disease can strike younger people as well.
More than 3 million Americans have glaucoma, and experts estimate that about half of them are unaware of their condition. It’s important to be on guard against the symptoms of glaucoma, because early detection leads to the best treatment outcome. There is no cure for glaucoma at this time, but certain medications or surgical treatments can slow the progression of vision loss.
Are you at high risk? Glaucoma can strike anyone, but becomes more common as we age. People of certain ethnicities (African, Asian, or Hispanic descent) are at higher risk. If you have a close family member with glaucoma, or you’re severely nearsighted, you are more likely to develop glaucoma. Diabetes is another personal risk factor.
Attend regular eye exams. The most important thing you can do is to attend regular vision screenings. Yes, even people who feel their vision is “just fine” should see an eye doctor regularly! Schedule a yearly examination with your eye care professional, who will test you for early signs of glaucoma.
With glaucoma being the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, January has been established as Glaucoma Awareness Month. If you or a loved one haven’t visited your eye doctor in the past year, schedule an appointment now. Talk to him or her about the early signs of glaucoma, so that you are more likely to recognize it in the event that you or a loved one are ever affected.