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January Has Been Declared National Glaucoma Awareness Month

To create awareness about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' January has been declared National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading source of permanent vision loss, accounting for 9%-12% of all cases of blindness in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people worldwide. Since glaucoma has no early symptoms, experts believe that close to 50% of patients with glaucoma are not aware of their illness.

Glaucoma is actually a number of eye diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting images between the eye and the brain. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, those at higher risk include African Americans above age 40, senior citizens, in particular of Mexican ancestry, and individuals with a family history of glaucoma.

Since blindness due to optic nerve damage is irreversible, sight can only be preserved through early diagnosis. This is difficult however, because symptoms are often not present before optical nerve damage has taken place, often being noticed when peripheral (side) vision loss is perceptible.

Treatment for glaucoma is determined based on the type of glaucoma and the extent of the nerve damage, and includes pressure-reducing eye surgery or medications, often eye drops. Although scientists are researching a cure, one does not currently exist and therefore proper diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent vision loss. Since glaucoma develops gradually and requires constant attention, it is preferable to find an eye care professional you trust.

According to a recent survey of the National Eye Institute of the NIH, while ninety percent of people had heard of glaucoma, a mere eight percent knew that it has no early warning signs. Only an experienced eye doctor can detect the initial effects of glaucoma, through a thorough glaucoma screening. We recommend an annual screening as the best way to prevent damage from this often over-looked disease. Schedule a glaucoma screening today.