January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. It falls at the perfect time, since the New Year is when people typically evaluate their physical health. Your eyes play an important role in your overall health and wellness, so January is a great month to know the facts on glaucoma. Though common, this is one condition that can cause permanent blindness; it’s nothing to take lightly.
Let’s learn more about glaucoma, the risk factors for the disease, and the importance of having regular eye exams with your ophthalmologist.
What is Glaucoma? How Big of a Problem is It?
Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases that affect the vision. Most forms of glaucoma are found in older adults, but some can affect younger people, too. The most common types of glaucoma include primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. With these conditions, the eye does not drain fluid as it should. As a result, pressure builds up and causes damage to the optic nerve.
According to The National Eye Institute, roughly 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma. It is the leading cause of blindness in people 60 and over and is more common in African Americans and Latinos. By 2030, the number of glaucoma cases is expected to jump by 58 percent, to 4.2 million. Most people have heard of glaucoma or know someone who has it, but this does not make the disease any less debilitating. Sadly, vision loss is permanent.
What are the Risk Factors?
Even though glaucoma can happen to anyone, the eye disease is more common in some people. Here are some of the risk factors to pay attention to.
-People over the age of 60
-Those with high internal eye pressure
-Those with a family history of glaucoma
-Those who are severely nearsighted
-Those with diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure
Importance of Regular Eye Exams
It may not be possible to prevent glaucoma, but there are steps you can take to slow its progression. Because the disease is known as the “silent thief of sight”, seeing your ophthalmologist is the best thing you can do for yourself. There are virtually no symptoms with glaucoma, particularly with primary open-angle glaucoma. If you don’t see your eye doctor, you may not notice that you have a problem until your vision is permanently lost.
If your eye doctor finds that you have signs of glaucoma, he or she may recommend eye drops and lifestyle changes, such as a special diet, daily exercise, and wearing eye protection. You may also want to discuss laser technology as a form of glaucoma treatment if the eye drops are not effective.
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. If you haven’t seen your ophthalmologist, schedule an appointment today. If someone close to you has been complaining of blurry vision, get them to the eye doctor. Glaucoma is nothing to wait on, and by understanding the symptoms and importance of regular eye exams, you can lower the risk for permanent vision loss.