In case you weren't aware, January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. In the United States alone, at least 2.7 million people over the age of 40 have glaucoma which in turn is one of the leading causes of blindness. This month, the American Optometric Association is urging people of all ages who have or have not had any prior symptoms to take action for early detection and help reduce the risk of developing glaucoma.
Many Americans are unsure of what exactly glaucoma is or misunderstand the symptoms and the prognosis. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, Glaucoma is defined as a complicated disease in which damage to the optic nerve leads to progressive, irreversible vision loss. (Source: GRF) Glaucoma can happen to anyone but there are certain risk factors that make some more susceptible to developing glaucoma.
There are several different forms of glaucoma with open angular glaucoma being more prevalent in African Americans and Latinos as well as being the most common form, acute angle-closure glaucoma which is common amongst Asians, normal tension glaucoma which is seen in people of Japanese ancestry and people with systematic heart disease, secondary glaucoma which is caused by another disease, pigmentary glaucoma, pseudoexfoliative glaucoma commonly found in those of Scandinavian descent, traumatic glaucoma, neovascular glaucoma congenital glaucoma and Irido Corneal Endothelial Syndrome a rare form of glaucoma that occurs in one eye instead of both.
With all these different types of glaucoma no one should consider themselves safe or not at risk and should get tested especially if they have a family history of glaucoma, hypothyroidism, are over age 60, individuals who have had severe eye trauma and patients who take certain medications like Plaquenil which is used by people who suffer Lupus.
"Yearly, comprehensive eye exams play a critical role in detection and treatment of glaucoma," said Robert Bittel, O.D., Chair of the AOA's Health Promotion Committee. "Dilated eye exams allow eye doctors to thoroughly examine the pressure and nerves inside the eyes for potential signs of the disease. Early detection, prompt treatment and regular monitoring can help control glaucoma, and therefore, reduce the chances of progressive vision loss."
According to data from the AOA's 2013 American Eye-Q®consumer survey, Americans do not fully understand glaucoma:
72 percent think glaucoma has early warning signs—it does not –only a comprehensive eye exam administered by an eye doctor can detect the disease
86 percent don't know what part of vision glaucoma affects— progressive deterioration to peripheral vision making it hard to see
47 percent think glaucoma is preventable—it is not preventable but it may be treated and progression can be slowed if it is detected and treated early (Source: AOA)
Early detection is key to detecting glaucoma. You should have your eyes tested regularly. For people under the age of 40 once every couple of years to four years is OK unless you are in one of the high risk categories. As you get older though, you should decrease the time between exams. From 40-54 years eye exams should be done once every year to three years, from ages 55-64 ever one to two years and older than 65 every six to 12 months.
There are five different tests that an ophthalmologist will perform. Some optometrists don't have the facilities to perform these tests so it's best to go to an ophthalmologist since they are actual medical doctors and can diagnose and treat major eye issues as well as prescribe medicines and perform surgeries.
To find out more about glaucoma and what you can do or early detection (not prevention because glaucoma is not preventable but it is treatable) visit the Glaucoma Research Foundation and to find an Ophthalmologist visit the American Optometic Association website at http://www.aoa.org as well as to get additional information on glaucoma and other eye issues and eye health.
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