Many eye health organizations recognize January as Glaucoma Awareness Month. Almost all eye care professionals agree that January 2021 will look much different from other years – the COVID-19 outbreak had prevented many people from getting the glaucoma screening and eye care they need for clear vision. This could put thousands of people at risk for undetected eye disease. If you are like other Americans who put off your eye care during 2020, Glaucoma Awareness Month presents a great opportunity to get back on track and in control of your eye health.
Glaucoma is an umbrella term that covers a number of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve to cause vision loss. Light and the information about the world around you enter your eye through the pupil and strike the light sensitive tissue lining the back of your eye. This tissue, known as the retina, translates the information carried on the light into impulses. These impulses then travel through the optic nerve to the brain, which translates them into the visual images you perceive.
Glaucoma typically causes pressure inside the eye to rise, and this increased pressure damages the optic nerve in ways that prevent the nerve from transmitting the impulses to your brain. Untreated glaucoma can lead to permanent and irreversible vision damage. In fact, glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States and in the world.
The good news is that treatment can slow or even stop vision loss if glaucoma is detected and treated early enough. Unfortunately, glaucoma usually develops slowly and does not cause pain; so most people with the condition do not realize they are losing their vision until the disease has caused significant damage to the optic nerve. In fact, about half of all people with glaucoma do not even know they have the disease. This is why many eye care professionals refer to glaucoma as the “silent thief” of sight.
Screening is the best way to detect and treat glaucoma early, when it is most receptive to treatment. Glaucoma screening is relatively quick and painless. Screening tests look for changes in the optic nerve, changes in pressure inside the eye, and changes in your visual field. Glaucoma treatment typically focuses on reducing pressure inside the eyes, and may include prescription eye drops, oral medications, laser treatment, surgery, or even a combination of these.
2021 looks to be a promising year – take care of your eyes during Glaucoma Awareness Month by scheduling an appointment with your eye care professionals at Illinois Eye Center this January.