January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month.

Did you know that glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world and currently affects over three-million people in the United States? The incidence is projected to rise to four million by 2030 as our population ages.

Unfortunately, most people with glaucoma do not experience any noticeable symptoms and are unaware that they are gradually losing their vision. Vision loss begins on the periphery (sides) of the eye. Once vision has been lost, it is permanent. Glaucoma is more common in African American, Asian, and Latino populations. It can be seen in all age groups; however, the most common forms occur in those who are middle-aged and elderly. People who have diabetes, high blood pressure, are severely near-sighted (can’t see things that are far away), and have a family history of glaucoma are also at a higher risk.

The two main types of glaucoma are primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. Typically, on testing the pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure) is increased leading to damage to optic nerve in the back of the eye. In some cases, the eye pressure can be normal and this is called normal-tension glaucoma.

Preventing glaucoma starts with a comprehensive eye examination. Early detection combined with appropriate treatment can reduce the likelihood of permanent vision loss. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends screening eye exams every four years at age 40, as long as you do not have additional risk factors for glaucoma. If you are at higher risk or over the age of 65, the screening should be done every two years.

So, as you start out the new year, plan on getting regular eye care, learn more about your family history, and take your prescribed eye drops daily to reduce the risk that high eye pressures will lead to vision loss. Call Severino Health Advisors if you need help understanding your eye professional’s recommendations.