Called the “sneak thief of sight”, glaucoma can arise without warning signs and cause permanent vision loss. Over 2.7 million Americans, and 60 million people worldwide, suffer from glaucoma, with half not even realizing they have it.
According to the World Health Organization, glaucoma is the second leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world, with over 120,000 people in the United States blind from the disease. What causes the disease is a progressive increase in eye pressure, causing damage to the optical nerve responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain; although it can also be caused by poor regulation of blood flow to the optic nerve.
Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision. Since we can lose as much as 40% of our vision without realizing it, it’s no wonder it’s so hard to detect without proper testing.
Fortunately, glaucoma is also the leading cause of preventable blindness. Although there’s no cure for glaucoma, a comprehensive dilated eye exam, or “puff test”, can permit the kind of treatment necessary to prevent blindness. Eye drops, lasers and even surgery can prevent, or at least slow, further vision loss.
Although anyone is potentially at risk of glaucoma, additional risk factors include:
- A family history of glaucoma, or having siblings who’ve been diagnosed with glaucoma;
- African ancestry, since African-Americans experience glaucoma at three times the rate of whites;
- Age over 45 years, although African-Americans and Hispanics in older age groups are particularly vulnerable;
- Diabetes and high-blood pressure; and
- Severe nearsightedness or farsightedness
It’s advised that people in the high risk groups above get eye exams at least every two years.
New research is exploring on how to lower pressure inside the eye and to protect the optical nerve from damage. Since 1980, the probability of blindness has actually decreased by half, thanks to early detection of the disease.
If it’s been a while since you’ve been tested for glaucoma, or you are in one of the high risk groups, please contact us at 877-871-1684 to schedule a glaucoma test with one of our eye care specialists.
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