January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Currently, 2.7 million people in the United States over age 40 have glaucoma—a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and destroy eyesight. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase. Everyone is at risk for glaucoma. Worldwide, 60 million people have glaucoma—the leading cause of blindness, but experts estimate that half of them don’t know they have it. Moreover, among African American and Latino populations, glaucoma is more prevalent. Glaucoma is 6 to 8 times more common in African Americans than Caucasians. Glaucoma is not curable, and vision lost cannot be regained, however, with medication and/or surgery, it is possible to halt further loss of vision.
There are different forms of glaucoma and varying warning signs; and sometimes no signs at all. Open-angle glaucoma, the most common form, has virtually no early symptoms—no pain or direct vision loss. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision which may not be noticed early on until significant vision is lost. Regular testing during annual eye exams is key to early diagnosis and treatment.
It is important to have regular eye exams:
- Before age 40, every 2-4 years
- 40-54, every 1-3 years
- 55-64 every 1-2 years
- After age 65, every 6-12 months
The Glaucoma Research Foundation is offering free resources, including regular Facebook and Twitter updates on glaucoma research, treatments, news and information; a free educational booklet; audio podcasts; and events to promote glaucoma awareness and eye health.
The NARIC collection is also a valuable resource for your eye care needs. Keeping Your Eyes Healthy, Available through NARIC’s document delivery service, includes information on how the eye works, how to prevent diabetes-related eye problems, and how to find an eye care specialist.
Eyesight is precious and never guaranteed. Whether sitting at a computer for eight hours a day, living with diseases such as diabetes, or simply aging, our eyes go through a lot of wear and tear. Eye care awareness is the first step in maintaining healthy vision. Check out this YouTube channel on eye exercises for tips on how to keep vision going strong.