Submitted by Oswego County
January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to spread the word about this sight-stealing disease.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning. In the early stages of the disease, there may be no symptoms. It is estimated that over 4 million Americans have glaucoma.
“Experts estimate that half of the people affected by glaucoma may not know they have it,” warned Dennis Norfleet, MD, Director of Public Health for Oswego County. “Early detection, through regular and complete eye exams, is the key to protecting a person’s vision from damage caused by glaucoma.”
Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve. This nerve is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain. Damage to the optic nerve is due to increased pressure in the eye, also known as intraocular pressure. Checking the intraocular pressure alone is not enough to diagnose glaucoma because eye pressure changes.
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, there are four key facts to know about glaucoma:
- Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness. Glaucoma can cause blindness if it is left untreated. Unfortunately approximately 10 percent of people with glaucoma who receive proper treatment still experience loss of vision.
- There is no cure yet for glaucoma. Glaucoma is not curable, and vision lost cannot be regained. With medication and/or surgery, it is possible to halt further loss of vision. Since glaucoma is a chronic condition, it must be monitored for life. Diagnosis is the first step to preserving your vision.
- Everyone is at risk for glaucoma. Everyone is at risk for glaucoma from babies to senior citizens. Older people are at a higher risk for glaucoma but babies can be born with glaucoma (approximately 1 out of every 10,000 babies born in the United States). Young adults can get glaucoma, too. African-Americans in particular are susceptible at a younger age.
- There may be no warning symptoms. With open angle glaucoma, the most common form, there are virtually no symptoms. Usually, no pain is associated with increased eye pressure.
For more information, contact the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3547.