Glaucoma takes sight without warning

Brett Abney

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), early detection and treatment is critical to maintain healthy vision and protect the eyes from the effects of potentially blinding diseases, such as glaucoma. Studies show that over the next 10 years, the number of Americans diagnosed with glaucoma will increase by more than one-million, yet Americans are still not doing as much as they should to help protect their vision.

Although glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the U.S., awareness of the disease is relatively low. According to data from the AOA’s latest American Eye-Q® consumer survey, less than a quarter of all Americans know glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve. The survey also indicated six in 10 Americans incorrectly believe glaucoma is preventable.

While the disease is not preventable, it is treatable, and regular, comprehensive eye exams play a critical role in successful outcomes for patients. Unfortunately, the Eye-Q® survey also found 20 percent of adults who do not wear glasses or contacts have never been to an eye doctor. The AOA recommends eye exams every two years for adults under age 60 and every year thereafter. Eye doctors may recommend more frequent appointments based on an individual’s overall health, risk factors or family history.

“Those individuals who do not visit their eye doctor on a regular basis are putting their vision and quality of life at risk,” said Dr. Kerry Beebe, Chair of AOA’s Clinical and Practice Advancement Group Committee. “Glaucoma is often referred to as ‘the sneak thief of sight’ because it can strike without pain or other symptoms. Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored, so early detection and treatment is paramount.”

Americans also are not aware of the factors that put them most at risk for developing glaucoma. Only 20 percent of those surveyed indicated knowing that race or ethnicity may increase their risk. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, African Americans ages 45 to 65 are 14 to 17 times more likely to go blind from glaucoma than Caucasians. Other risk factors include people who have a family history of glaucoma, are over age 60, or have had severe eye trauma. Some studies suggest high amounts of nearsightedness, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes may also be risk factors for the development of glaucoma.

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