Did you know that more than 3 million people in the U.S. alone have glaucoma?

Did you know that by 2030, that number is expected to rise by nearly 60%?

Did you know that an individual with glaucoma can lose as much as 40% of their sight without even noticing?

Finally, did you know that glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness? 

Those facts alone answer the question, “Why is raising glaucoma awareness so important?” How can this eyesight thief be stopped if, on a grand scale, most don’t know that it poses a threat to them? Consider the following important facts to get you started on the road to increased awareness of this disease.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a term used to classify two different conditions. The common thread between the two is damage to the optic nerve. Most often, this is the result of fluid buildup on the front part of the eye, which puts additional pressure on the nerve. Over time, progressive damage and vision impairment occurs.

So what are the two main types of this disease?

Types of Glaucoma

The first is called primary open angle glaucoma and is the most common form. While it isn’t painful and doesn’t cause any vision changes at first, constant pressure on the optic nerve does gradually result in damage.

Then there’s closed-angle glaucoma, which is the result of a person’s iris being too close to the drainage angle in their eye. Basically, the iris blocks fluid, preventing it from draining properly and causing pressure to rise quickly.

While most people develop this condition over time, it’s more dangerous in that it can lead to an acute attack, which could quickly claim a person’s vision.

Symptoms of an acute attack include:

  • Suddenly blurred vision
  • A sudden-onset headache
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Severe eye pain
  • Seeing rainbow-colored rings around lights

It’s important to seek medical attention without delay if these symptoms develop. Otherwise, the risk of permanent blindness is highly likely. But what about non-emergency situations? What can you do under normal circumstances to protect your eyesight?

Preventing Significant Vision Loss and Blindness

While there is no known way to prevent glaucoma itself, there are ways to prevent the damage that it can do. For example, research has shown that exercise can lower pressure within the eye. However, this benefit is not a long-lasting one. Therefore, a regular exercise routine is recommended to maintain normal pressure.

Additionally, protective eyewear is recommended when engaging in potentially dangerous activities such as sports or home improvement projects. In the event of an accident, a person can develop traumatic or secondary glaucoma so it’s best to take precautions.

What’s the best method of prevention, though? Regular eye exams. Early detection and prompt treatment can prevent glaucoma from doing significant and irreversible damage to the eyes. How often should you go in for an exam?

  • Age 40 and under: Every two to four years
  • Age 40-54: Every one to three years
  • Ages 55-64: Every one to two years
  • Age 65 and up: Every six to 12 months

If you have risk factors outside of advancing age, though, you’ll want to get your exam at least every two years. Risk factors include diabetes, a family history of glaucoma and being of African descent. If you fall into any of the above categories, you should be especially vigilant about keeping tabs on the health of your eyes.

Raising Awareness is Important

Of course, there’s plenty more to know about this disease. Since January is Glaucoma Awareness Month,why not learn more about it, schedule your next eye exam and encourage friends and family to do the same? You’ll be protecting your sight and raising the awareness that’s so badly needed.