Second only to cataracts, glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness throughout the world. In the United States alone, more than 2.7 million people age 40 and older have open-angle glaucoma, a 22 percent increase from just 10 years ago, according to the 2012 Vision Problems in the US report from Prevent Blindness America and the National Eye Institute. Along with the troubling increase in the number of cases, is the major concern that half of those people who have glaucoma are not aware of it. January has been declared as National Glaucoma Awareness Month.
The symptoms develop so gradually that the patient may not notice them right away. Glaucoma, according to the Mayo Clinic, is actually a group of eye conditions that can damage the optic nerve. Symptoms for open-angle glaucoma may include developing blind spots in the peripheral vision. If left untreated, over time, glaucoma may also damage central vision.
Risk factors for glaucoma include age, family history, nearsightedness, eye injury or surgery and the use of steroid medications. Race is another major risk factor as, according to the National Eye Institute, glaucoma is five times more likely to occur in blacks than in whites, and blacks are four times more likely to go blind from it. Hispanics are more likely to develop glaucoma after age 60 than any other group.
Once vision is lost to glaucoma, it cannot be restored. However, promising research from the University of Michigan Medical School, led by Joshua Stein, MD, MS, found that the risk for glaucoma was reduced by eight percent in hyperlipidemia patients who took statins continuously for two years, compared with patients who did not take statins. The study entitled “The Relationship Between Statin Use and Open-Angle Glaucoma” found that statin use may be most effective in the early stages of the disease or as a preventive measure. The findings offer encouragement for future research on the effects of statins on a broader group of people. Statins are a medicine that reduce the levels of lipids in the blood by altering the enzyme activity in the liver that produces lipids, according to Dictionary.com. Lipitor is a well known brand name statin designed at lowering cholesterol.
“As we begin 2013, we hope that everyone’s New Year’s resolution will be to make their eye health a priority and schedule an eye exam,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness America. “Through early detection and treatment, we can help lessen the effects of glaucoma and other eye diseases on vision.”
Prevent Blindness America provides free resources to educate the public on glaucoma through “The Glaucoma Learning Center,” at www.preventblindess.org/glaucoma.
This article was taken in part from a press release by Prevent Blindness America. It is not intended to replace the medical advice of your physician. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of glaucoma, make an appointment with your physician and your ophthalmologist.
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