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This Month is National Glaucoma Awareness Month

To create awareness about the ''sneak thief of sight,'' this month has been named National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the second leading source of permanent vision loss, accounting for 9%-12% of all cases of blindness in the United States and effecting nearly 70 million people worldwide. Since glaucoma is initially asymptomatic, experts believe that close to half of those with glaucoma are unaware of their condition.

Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve, the pathway that carries images to the brain. Although glaucoma can affect people of all ages, those at higher risk include African Americans over 40 years of age, senior citizens, in particular Mexican Americans, and those with a family history of the disease.

Since blindness of this kind is irreversible, vision can only be preserved through early diagnosis. This is difficult however, because symptoms rarely manifest before optical nerve damage has taken place, and usually begin with an irreversible loss of peripheral (side) vision.

Treatment for glaucoma depends on the type of glaucoma and the extent of the damage, and may include medication (usually prescription eye drops) or surgery. While experts are researching a cure, one does not currently exist and therefore proper diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent vision loss. Since glaucoma develops gradually and requires constant attention, it is preferable to find an eye doctor experienced in this condition.

The NIH's National Eye Institute recently found that while glaucoma was known to ninety percent of the people they surveyed, a mere eight percent were aware that it presents no early warning symptoms. Only an experienced eye care professional can identify the initial signs of glaucoma, by means of a thorough glaucoma screening. An annual glaucoma screening is your best defense against this silent disease. Schedule a glaucoma screening today.