Each January, the National Eye Institute sponsors National Glaucoma Awareness Month. It’s a chance to spread awareness about this disease that is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. It’s expected to affect more than four million people by the year 2030.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness by damaging a nerve in the back of your eye called the optic nerve. It accounts for 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness in the United States. Glaucoma can’t be prevented or cured — but it can be treated with medicines, laser treatment or surgery.
So, let’s take a look at the symptoms, treatments and what you can do to help educate people during National Glaucoma Awareness Month.
Over 3 million Americans and more than 60 million people worldwide have glaucoma. Experts estimate that half of them don't know they have it.
That’s because the symptoms can start so slowly that you may not notice them. Typically, you will notice no difference in your vision during the early stages of glaucoma’s development. But as it progresses, you will begin to lose side (peripheral) vision, and may eventually experience blindness.
The only way to find out if you have glaucoma is to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam. And it’s important to understand that glaucoma is not just a disease your grandmother has. It can happen to anyone. And most types of glaucoma have no symptoms.
Although there is no cure for glaucoma, there are many different treatment options available. They include different types of medication and surgery.
If medicines and laser surgery don’t work, your doctor may recommend incisional surgery. A tiny drainage hole is made in the back of the eye. The new drainage hole allows fluid to flow out of the eye and helps lower eye pressure.
Researchers are also trying to develop glaucoma glasses that may help reduce eye pressure without drugs or surgery and/or compensate to some degree for peripheral vision loss from glaucoma.
To help spread the word about glaucoma, you can check out the National Eye Institute’s Glaucoma Resources for Health Educators. You can also do things like:
If you’d like to stay ahead of your health, another good way to do it is by getting regular health screenings, including a regular eye exam. We have a checklist to help you keep track. The “Midlife Health Screenings” guide can let you know what tests you need and when you need them.