January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to spread the word about the leading cause of vision loss and irreversible blindness.
Over 3 million people in the U.S. have glaucoma, and the National Eye Institute projects this number will increase by 58% to affect 4.2 million Americans by 2030 due to the aging population.
Over time, glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve, which is the cable that connects the eyeball to the brain. The disease is usually associated with high pressure in the eye, although that’s not always the case. Anyone can develop glaucoma, but those with a slightly higher risk include:
- Anyone with a family history of the disease
- African Americans over the age of 40
- Everyone over age 60, with Hispanics/Latinos at a higher risk in this age group.
- Those with high eye pressure.
Glaucoma is often called “the sneak thief of sight” since as much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person being aware that they have the disease. Glaucoma has no initial symptoms or warning signs, and any vision loss is permanent. Once the disease advances, symptoms may include:
- Frequent mild headaches
- Difficulty with night vision
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Recurring redness in one or both eyes, often occurring along with blurred vision and/or pain
The best way to avoid vision loss or blindness due to glaucoma is to have regular comprehensive eye exams to evaluate your eye pressure, the health of your optic nerve, and your cornea. An annual comprehensive eye exam is recommended for anyone over age 35, especially those with a family history of glaucoma.
If glaucoma is detected in the early stages, before substantial vision loss occurs, it can often be controlled so that severe vision loss is prevented. If oral medications and eye drops don’t control a patient’s glaucoma, surgery may be recommended.
The doctors at Baptist Eye Surgeons specialize in detecting and treating diseases of the eye, such as glaucoma. With offices in Knoxville, TN and Morristown, TN, Baptist Eye Surgeons is an ophthalmological practice dedicated to providing exceptional eye care to patients whose needs range from routine comprehensive eye examinations to complex eye surgeries. To learn about our specialities and our doctors, visit our website. Call us at 865-579-3920 for more information, or visit us online to schedule an appointment.