January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to spread the word about this sight-stealing disease.
Currently, more than 3 million people in the U.S. have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58% increase. Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and, once vision is lost, it’s permanent. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. Moreover, among African-American and Latino populations, glaucoma is more prevalent. Glaucoma is six to eight times more common among African-Americans than it is among Caucasians.
Combined with our aging population, we can see an epidemic of blindness looming if we don’t raise awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations to preserve vision.
The World Health Organization estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma, including 120,000 in the U.S., accounting for 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning. Although the most common forms primarily affect the middle-aged and the elderly, glaucoma can affect people of all ages. Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve, which acts like an electric cable with more than 1 million wires, and is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain.
There is no cure for glaucoma — yet. However, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma, among other factors. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease.
Regular eye exams are important. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost. The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination. Then, if you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately.
Here are three ways you can help raise awareness about the threat of glaucoma:
- Talk to friends and family about it. If you have glaucoma, don’t keep it a secret. Let your family members know.
- Visit, or refer a friend to, www.glaucoma.org, and request to have a free educational booklet sent to you or a friend.
- Get involved in your community through fund-raisers, information sessions, group discussions, inviting expert speakers, and more.