Approximately 2.2 million Americans age 40 and older have glaucoma, and half of those are at risk for going blind because they do not know they have the disease.
Glaucoma is a condition in which the optic nerve, responsible for transmitting visual information from the eye to the brain, is damaged. Although the nerve damage is usually associated with elevated pressure inside the eye, other factors can be involved. It may begin with the loss of peripheral vision and then advance to a reduction in central vision. Glaucoma can potentially lead to vision loss or blindness.
“Most people who have glaucoma don’t notice symptoms until they begin to lose some vision. But vision loss from glaucoma can be prevented if it’s detected and treated in time,” said Robert N. Weinreb, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology and Director of the Hamilton Glaucoma Center at the University of California, San Diego. Weinreb is also President of the American Glaucoma Society. “As part of Glaucoma Awareness Month in January, we urge everyone at risk of developing glaucoma to get a complete eye exam.”
So, who’s at risk? “People with a family history of glaucoma, all individuals over age 60, African-Americans over age 40, Hispanics, and people with other health conditions, such as diabetes and those who have experienced a serious eye injury are considered at risk,” says Dr. Weinreb. He recommends that anyone who falls into one or more of those categories should talk with an eye doctor about how often an eye examination should be conducted to ensure good vision.
Although glaucoma cannot be cured, early detection and treatment can usually preserve vision. Knowing the risk factors and having a regular eye examination can help ensure early detection and improved management of the disease.
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