January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, and there’s a good reason to stay aware of this potentially dangerous health problem. That’s because glaucoma may not have any symptoms initially, but over time, it can take away your vision. An estimated 3 million Americans have glaucoma, but only half of them know that they have it, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation.
Although there are several different types of glaucoma, the disease is associated with damage to the eye’s optic nerve. Here are a few more facts about glaucoma:
- Glaucoma affects African Americans more than other population groups, although Mexican Americans also have higher than normal rates of glaucoma. Other people at a higher risk are those over age 60 and those with a family history of glaucoma.
- Glaucoma usually does not have any symptoms at first. However, if you have a type of glaucoma called open-angle glaucoma, you may notice the loss of peripheral or central vision. Another type of glaucoma called acute angle closure has more immediate symptoms, including eye pain, nausea and vomiting, and blurred vision.
- There is no cure for glaucoma. Once your vision is lost, it cannot be gained back. This is why early detection is so important.
- There are treatments to help control glaucoma and keep your eye pressure (also called intraocular pressure) under better control. Many patients use medications, while some have surgeries. Still other patients are using a growing number of devices inserted in the eye to help keep intraocular pressure at a healthy level. There is a large amount of research and development within glaucoma right now—more than in the past.
- The best way to monitor for glaucoma is to have a full dilated eye exam every two years once you turn age 60; however, if you are African American or have a family history of glaucoma, medical experts recommend having dilated eye exams every two years starting at age 40. When in doubt, check with your eye doctor to see when and how often you should have an exam.
- Although there’s no surefire way to prevent glaucoma, eye doctors recommend following commonsense health advice, such as exercising regularly, eating green and leafy vegetables, and wearing eye protection in the sun.
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