Glaucoma is often called the “sneak thief of sight” because it has no symptoms, just quietly robs people of their vision. This month is National Glaucoma Awareness Month and we turn the spotlight on this condition. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, more than 4 million Americans – and almost 70 million people worldwide – have glaucoma. It’s estimated about half of them don’t even know they have it. A group of eye diseases, glaucoma can result in permanent vision loss caused by damage to the optic nerve. According to the foundation, the optic nerve “acts like an electric cable with over a million wires. It is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain.” Although glaucoma has no real symptoms, there are risk factors that can help with early detection. If any member of your immediate family has glaucoma you are at a much higher risk of developing the disease. In fact, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, with a family history of glaucoma your risk increases from 4 to 9 times. Other groups at risk for glaucoma are African-Americans, people over the age of 60, Asians, steroid users, diabetics and anyone who has suffered a blunt trauma eye injury (common in sports). If you fall into any of these risk categories, it’s important to have regular eye exams. Early detection usually means glaucoma can be managed with medication and/or surgery and the risk of blindness decreases. Do you or someone you know have glaucoma? How has it impacted your life? Was it detected early?
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