Eye on health: Glaucoma

Courtesy of the 435th Aerospace Medicine Squadron

***image1***A silent disease is taking away the sight of millions of Americans – glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the optic nerve, slowly reducing eyesight, and left untreated may cause blindness. Approximately 2.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with the most common form of glaucoma called primary open-angle glaucoma. An estimated two million additional Americans have glaucoma and don’t know it.

Each May, eye professionals across the United States promote Healthy Vision Month. This year, the focus is on glaucoma awareness to educate people at higher risk for glaucoma and their loved ones about the importance of early detection and treatment. There are often no warning signs or symptoms associated with the onset of glaucoma. As the disease progresses, a person may notice side vision decreasing.

As glaucoma worsens, the field of vision continues to narrow and blindness may result. Vision lost because of glaucoma cannot be restored, which is why early detection is so important. Glaucoma can be detected through a dilated eye exam. A dilated eye exam allows an eye care professional to see inside the eye to check for signs of glaucoma and other vision problems. Treatment options for glaucoma include medicines, laser surgery, conventional surgery, or a combination of any of these.

The National Eye Institute, one of the Federal government’s National Institutes of Health, conducts and supports research that leads to sight-saving treatments and plays a key role in reducing visual impairment.  While anyone can get glaucoma, NEI encourages those at higher risk to get a dilated eye exam every one to two years. Individuals at higher risk include African Americans over age 40; everyone over age 60, especially Mexican Americans; and people with a family history of glaucoma.

For more information about glaucoma, visit the Healthy Vision 2010 Web site at http://healthyvision2010.nei.nih.gov/index.asp. To schedule an eye exam at one of the KMC eye clinics, call the LRMC appointment line at 486-5762.