Take Steps To Save Your Vision
According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), one of the National Institutes of Health, some three million Americans have glaucoma, a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and destroy eyesight, and half may not even aware that they have it. With its painless and gradual loss of vision, glaucoma may have no early warning signs, but it can be detected during a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Make January—Glaucoma Awareness Month—the month you get this vision-saving exam to check your eye health.
Paul A. Sieving, MD, PhD, director of NEI), said, "NEI-funded research has shown that treatment during the early stages of glaucoma can control the disease and prevent future vision loss and blindness. This is why NEI encourages people at higher risk for glaucoma to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam every one to two years."
Are You At Risk?
Anyone can develop glaucoma, but your risk is higher if:
- You're an African American over age 40
- You're over age 60, especially if you're Mexican American
- You have a family history of the disease
Only a comprehensive dilated eye exam that includes an evaluation of your optic nerve by an eye care professional can assess your eye health.
What Happens During The Exam?
During a comprehensive dilated eye exam, an eye care professional can see inside the eye to detect signs of glaucoma, such as subtle changes to the optic nerve, before any symptoms appear. This helps determine if you have glaucoma and get early treatment or are at risk for it and can then be monitored. The test is painless and quick.
If glaucoma is detected early, treatments such as eye drops or surgery can slow or stop vision loss. Once symptoms appear, it may be too late to prevent vision loss and the progression to blindness.
What Else Can I Do?
To learn more, visit the NEI at www.nei.nih.gov/glaucoma/. Another helpful resource is the BrightFocus Foundation at www.brightfocus.org. BrightFocus is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing brain and eye health by funding research worldwide on glaucoma, macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease. BrightFocus also provides the public with information about these diseases, including risk factors, current treatments and coping strategies. You can find an eye doctor near you through the site's Find an Eye Doctor Directories.