The World Health Organization estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma. Currently, in the United States, there are over 3 million people living with glaucoma and, according to the National Eye Institute, this number is projected to reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning. Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve.
To help you understand the diagnoses and prevention of glaucoma, here are some Glaucoma Facts from The Glaucoma Research Foundation:
- Glaucoma can affect people of all ages. Although the most common forms primarily affect people age 40 or over, glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness.
- As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing. Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it’s permanent. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost.
- There are a number of risk factors for glaucoma. Those at higher risk include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent. Other high-risk groups include people over 60, those with a family history of glaucoma, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted.
- Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease. There is no cure for glaucoma. However, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors.
- Regular Eye Exams are Important. Regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma and may help to prevent unnecessary vision loss. The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination. Then, if you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately.
- When caught early, glaucoma can sometimes be prevented. During an eye exam for glaucoma, your ophthalmologist will measure your eye pressure to determine whether or not you have vision-threatening glaucoma. Since elevated eye pressure isn’t something you can feel or detect on your own, it is important to visit an ophthalmology practice regularly to get evaluated, particularly if you have any risk factors that may lead to developing glaucoma. Your ophthalmologist may treat glaucoma with eye drops you can administer on your own. As long as the elevated eye pressure is detected in time, blindness from glaucoma may be prevented.