Important Information from the National Eye Institute
Glaucoma is a major cause of vision loss in the U.S. While it currently affects about 3 million Americans, estimates show 6.3 million could have glaucoma by 2050. With Glaucoma Awareness Month in January, it’s a good time to think about scheduling a comprehensive dilated eye exam, especially if you are at risk.
In its early stages, glaucoma typically has no symptoms. Late in the disease, once vision has been lost, it can’t be restored. Anyone can get glaucoma, but African Americans over age 40, everyone over age 60, especially Mexican Americans, and people with a family history of glaucoma are at higher risk. People at higher risk should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam every one to two years.
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damages the optic nerve, the bundle of nerve cells that relays visual information from the eye to the brain. In the most common form of glaucoma, called primary open angle glaucoma, nerve damage results from increased pressure inside the eye. Increased eye pressure occurs when the fluid that circulates in the eye drains too slowly.
If glaucoma is detected in its early stages, pressure often can be controlled through medication or surgery, and the progression of the disease can be delayed. The disease is usually painless, initially affects peripheral vision, and progresses slowly, which helps explain why half of all people with glaucoma don’t know they have it. Without adequate treatment, glaucoma eventually affects central vision and progresses to complete blindness.
For more information from the NEI about glaucoma, comprehensive dilated eye exams, and financial assistance available for eye care, visit www.nei.nih.gov/glaucoma.