Glaucoma, the leading cause of preventable blindness, currently affects more than 3 million people in the United States and over 60 million people worldwide. Glaucoma is often referred to as the silent thief of sight because it has no symptoms in the early stages. Experts estimate that half of all people with glaucoma have no idea that their vision is in jeopardy. That’s why January has been designated as National Glaucoma Awareness Month.
Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that affect the optic nerve – the vital link between your eye and your brain. Since glaucoma has no symptoms, it’s estimated that up to 40% of a sufferer’s vision can disappear without them noticing. The World Health Organization has estimated that nearly 4.5 million people around the world have gone blind because of glaucoma.
Who Is Affected?
Some people are more likely to develop glaucoma than others. If you have a family member who has already been diagnosed, you have a higher probability to develop glaucoma than someone who doesn’t. Glaucoma is more prevalent among African Americans, Latino, and Asian populations – and is 6-8 times more prevalent among African Americans than Caucasians. People over the age of 60, diabetics and people with severe nearsightedness are also at a higher risk.
What Can You Do?
Since glaucoma has no symptoms, the only way to truly ensure you are protected is to get a routine comprehensive eye exam. While lost vision cannot be restored, treatment can begin immediately after detection. Everyone 40 years of age and older should be getting regular screenings. Early detection is truly the best way to protect your sight!
As we mentioned before, many people with glaucoma don’t even know they have it yet – and that’s why it’s important to take Glaucoma Awareness Month seriously. Talk to your friends about the importance of glaucoma screenings for everyone over the age of 40, and bring family members along for an eye exam. If you or someone you know has glaucoma, use this opportunity to spread awareness and information. Doing your part could help save someone’s vision this year.
Contact Illinois Eye Center at (309) 243-2400 to schedule your next eye exam or visit our website for more information.