Newswise — You may be familiar with the expression: knowledge is power. That’s true, but it’s what you do with that knowledge that makes a difference. Fortunately, today we have access to critical knowledge and available treatments to protect us from vision loss from glaucoma — the number one cause of preventable blindness in the US.
January, National Glaucoma Awareness Month, is an excellent time to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam—the most effective way to test for glaucoma—and to convince your loved ones to get tested, too. In addition, it’s an excellent New Year’s resolution! Although there’s no cure for glaucoma, early treatment can often curb the damage and protect your vision. It’s also the perfect time to learn about the risk factors that may make you more susceptible to glaucoma and treatment options.
National Glaucoma Awareness Month is also a great opportunity to celebrate the dedicated researchers and physicians working diligently every day to find a cure. In addition, it’s a time to honor all who support the ongoing research to discover new treatments and management that improve life for those living with glaucoma.
What Is Glaucoma?
More than three million people in the US and an estimated nearly 58 million people worldwide have glaucoma—a group of conditions that affects the optic nerve. Glaucoma is caused when fluid, known as aqueous humor, builds up in the eye increasing eye pressure, called intraocular pressure (IOP). High IOP causes damage to the optic nerve, which, in turn, causes glaucoma.
Often glaucoma doesn’t have any noticeable symptoms. It’s also a slowly progressing condition, so half of the estimated three million Americans living with glaucoma don’t even know they have it. There are several reasons glaucoma can go undetected, including:
- Most types of glaucoma are painless, with no feelings of discomfort.
- Changes to vision due to glaucoma are usually gradual, making it difficult to notice changes.
- Although there are rarely noticeable visual symptoms in the early stages of glaucoma, vision loss begins at the nasal peripheral areas of vision.
- It’s not uncommon for glaucoma to affect one eye more severely, and we compensate for the loss.
- Because glaucoma is often associated with aging (although it can affect anyone at any age), subtle vision changes can be accepted as part of the aging process.
Who’s at Risk for Glaucoma?
Anyone can get glaucoma, including children, and everyone should be screened for glaucoma, but there some people have a higher risk, including:
- People over age 60, especially Hispanics/Latinos
- African Americans over age 40
- People with a family history of glaucoma
The Importance of Glaucoma Awareness
Early detection of glaucoma is essential in preventing vision loss and blindness. Eye doctors recommend going for eye health examinations every year. Since glaucoma usually presents no symptoms and warning signs until too late, spreading awareness is critically important.
How to Help Raise Awareness About Glaucoma
Some of the ways people can help spread awareness of the disease include:
- Sharing glaucoma awareness posts on social media.
- Undergoing a yearly eye and vision examination and encouraging others to do the same.
- Getting involved through community group discussions and fundraisers. You can consider inviting your eye doctor to be a guest speaker.
- Supporting organizations such as Glaucoma Research Foundation, which funds new research to help find a cure for the disease. You can even support this non-profit organization by simply sharing its website.
- Referring people to informational websites such as Glaucoma.org to get reliable information to prevent and treat glaucoma.
The good news is that early detection can prevent significant damage and save your eyesight. New advancements in glaucoma care continue to bring us closer to finding a cure. You can help make a cure possible. Your donation of cash or stock, a fundraising event, or even a vehicle or boat, will give hope to those living with glaucoma and accelerate our search for a cure. Every donation helps, and even simply sharing this message with friends, family, and associates helps.