Glaucoma, commonly referred to as the "sneak thief of sight," currently affects nearly 3 million people ages 40 and older, according to the Prevent Blindness report, "Future of Vision: Forecasting the Prevalence and Costs of Vision Problems." By the year 2032, the number is projected to increase nearly 50 percent to 4.3 million and by more than 90 percent to 5.5 million by 2050, due significantly to the large aging population in the United States.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that can lead to vision loss if not controlled. Treatment cannot reverse any damage that has already occurred, but it can prevent further vision loss. Glaucoma damages the optic nerve, causing the loss of patches of vision, usually side vision (peripheral vision).
According to the recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Health and Medicine Division (NASEM) consensus study, "Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow," in relation to glaucoma, physiological changes related to the aging process alter the physical conditions under which light enters the eye or compromise the cellular function or neural pathways that relay information about the physical environment to the eye or the brain. Additionally, the report states that in the early and intermediate stages of glaucoma, changes in vision may not be noticeable without a dilated eye examination, despite ongoing damage to structures of the visual system.
January has been declared as National Glaucoma Awareness Month by Prevent Blindness and other leading eye health organizations, in an effort to help educate the public on the disease, including risk factors and treatment options. Prevent Blindness offers a dedicated web page providing patients and their caregivers with additional free information at http://www.preventblindness.org/glaucoma.
These risk factors may increase your chance of having glaucoma:
Age: The older you are, the greater you are at risk (especially if you are over 60 years old). African Americans are at a greater risk at a younger age starting at age 40 and older.
Race: African-Americans age 40 and over are 4-5 times more likely to have glaucoma than others. Hispanics are also at increased risk for glaucoma as they age. Those of Asian and Native American descent are at increased risk for angle closure glaucoma.
Family History: If you have a parent, brother or sister with glaucoma, you are more likely to get glaucoma. If you have glaucoma, inform your family members to get complete eye exams.
Medical History: You are at risk if you have a history of high pressure in your eyes, previous eye injury, long-term steroid use, or nearsightedness. "With nearly 106,000 Ohioans with glaucoma today, it is critical that people know their risk for vision loss without early detection and treatment," said Sherry Williams, President & CEO of Prevent Blindness, Ohio Affiliate. "We urge everyone, especially those ages 40 and older, to make an appointment for a dilated eye exam from an eye care professional today. Please don't put off your chance for healthy vision until tomorrow!"
For more information on glaucoma or financial assistance programs, including Medicare coverage, please call Prevent Blindness at 800-301-2020.
About Prevent Blindness Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness is the nation's leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness is Ohio's leading volunteer nonprofit public health organization dedicated to preventing blindness and preserving sight. We serve all 88 Ohio counties, providing direct services to more than 800,000 Ohioans annually and educating millions of consumers about what they can do to protect and preserve their precious gift of sight. Visit us on the web at www.pbohio.org or facebook.com/pbohio.