January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Currently, more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030. Over 60 million people worldwide have this sight-stealing disease. Experts estimate that half of them don’t even know they have it. Combined with our aging population, we could see an epidemic of blindness if we don’t raise awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations to preserve vision. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma. In the United States, approximately 120,000 are blind from glaucoma, 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. This nerve acts like an electric cable with over a million wires. It is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain. There is no cure for glaucoma currently. However, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African-Americans. And among Hispanics in older age groups, the risk of glaucoma is nearly as high as that for African-Americans. Also, siblings of persons diagnosed with glaucoma have a significantly increased risk of having glaucoma. According to the WHO, it is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” because there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it is permanent 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. Schedule your comprehensive eye exam today and spread the word!