January is Glaucoma Awareness Month
Often called the “silent thief of sight”, glaucoma usually presents with no symptoms to make the patient aware they have a problem until permanent damage occurs. Because of this yearly, dilated eye examinations are critical in diagnosing the disease early in patients, with the hope of preventing damage that impacts one’s lifestyle. If it has been over a year since your last dilated eye exam, it is recommended that you schedule an appointment to have your eye dilated.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. It is estimated that over 3 million Americans have glaucoma. Of those, only half know it due to its lack of symptoms early on. Everyone is at risk of developing glaucoma. The following groups are at an increased risk.
Glaucoma is the 2nd leading cause of blindness in African Americans and those of African decent. Glaucoma is 6-8 times more prevalent in people of African decent than those of European ancestry.
Over the Age of 60
This risk for glaucoma increases with age. In fact, those over the age of 60 have a 6 times greater risk of developing glaucoma compared to those under the age of 60.
Family History of Glaucoma
If you have a parent or sibling with glaucoma, you are more likely to develop glaucoma. Some studies show that people with a family history are up to 9 times more likely to develop glaucoma than those who do not.
People of Hispanic ancestry are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma than those of European decent. This risk disparity increases with age.
People of Asian heritage are at an increased risk of developing a subset of glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma. Angle-closure glaucoma accounts for less than 10% of all cases of glaucoma. Also, people of Japanese decent are at a higher risk of developing normal-tension glaucoma.
Some people who chronically use steroids, such an inhaler for asthma, may develop increased pressure within the eye over time. This increased pressure can lead to the development of glaucoma.
Blunt trauma or penetrating injuries to the eye can cause damage to the “drainage system” within the eye that can lead to the development of glaucoma. Sports-related injuries are the most common category of injury to lead to glaucoma.
Throughout this month, we will provide more information about what glaucoma is, how it is diagnosed and how it is treated.