To spread the word about the ''silent blinding diseases,'' January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading source of preventable permanent vision loss, accounting for 9%-12% of all cases of complete vision loss in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people around the world. Due to the fact that glaucoma is initially asymptomatic, experts believe that close to half of those with glaucoma are not aware of their illness.
Since vision loss of this kind is irreversible, sight can only be preserved through early diagnosis. Symptoms of the disease, however, don’t present themselves before the optic nerve is damaged, often becoming apparent when peripheral (side) blindness becomes obvious.
Treatment for glaucoma is determined based on the disease characteristics and the extent of the damage, and includes medication (usually prescription eye drops) or surgery. Although experts are working hard to find a cure, one does not currently exist and therefore early diagnosis and treatment are essential to preserve vision. Since glaucoma is a chronic disease, it is important to find an eye care professional experienced with this condition and treatments to slow the progression.
Only a qualified eye care professional can detect the early effects of glaucoma. A yearly eye exam is your best defense against this silent disease.