January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

By Carolina Boyd, Communications Associate

Glaucoma is often called the “silent thief of sight.” That is because it can slowly steal a person’s vision without warning. Each year, the month of January is set aside to bring awareness about this debilitating eye condition that affects more than three million Americans and another 60 million worldwide.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that causes vision loss due to damage to the optic nerve. That nerve acts like an electric cable to the brain sending visual signals and images. This damage is often caused by abnormally high pressure in the eye.

Although glaucoma is most common in the middle-aged and elderly, it can affect anyone, regardless of age. Those at highest risk for glaucoma include people with a family history of the disease, patients who are African American or Latinx, diabetic or have cardiovascular disease.

At first, glaucoma won’t show any symptoms. That’s why half of the people with glaucoma don’t even know they have it. Yet over time, a person starts to lose his or her vision. As the disease worsens, they may start to notice that they can’t see things in their peripheral or side vision anymore. Without treatment, glaucoma can eventually lead to blindness.

There are many different types of glaucoma, but in the US the most common is open-angle glaucoma. It’s what most people refer to when talking about the condition. Other kinds like angle-closure glaucoma and congenital glaucoma are less common. The only sure way to determine if you have glaucoma is through a comprehensive dilated eye exam.

There is no cure for glaucoma but early treatment can help stop the damage to your vision. Doctors use different treatments which can include medications (usually eye drops), laser treatments and surgery. If caught early enough, medication or surgery can help slow the progression of vision loss.

In addition to regular eye exams, there are other ways to help reduce glaucoma related vision lost:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Stay physically active
  • Avoid smoking
  • Research your family medical history

If you’re at high risk for glaucoma, talk to an eye care professional about the best course of treatment for you. To learn more about glaucoma, visit the CDC’s website.