SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Glaucoma is a stealthy illness;
most people have no early symptoms and do not notice as their peripheral
vision diminishes or blind spots occur. As a result, about half of the
three million Americans with the disease are unaware of their condition.
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, and through the EyeSmart(TM) Campaign,
the American Academy of Ophthalmology and EyeCare America, a public service
program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, want to
remind people that knowing your risk for the disease can save your sight.
If untreated, glaucoma ultimately results in blindness.
"Glaucoma can be a 'sneak thief' illness, and currently there is no
treatment to restore vision once it's lost," said Kuldev Singh, MD, MPH,
Professor of Ophthalmology and Director of the Glaucoma Service at Stanford
University School of Medicine, and clinical correspondent for the Academy.
"But when we catch glaucoma early and closely monitor and treat people, we
can significantly slow its progression and minimize vision loss."
Because glaucoma is a leading cause of preventable blindness, the
American Glaucoma Society and the Glaucoma Research Foundation are joining
the Academy and EyeCare America in urging Americans to know their risks for
Among Americans, higher risk groups include those of African or
Hispanic heritage and others with a family history of the illness. Elderly
individuals with African ancestry are five times more likely to develop
glaucoma and 14 to 17 times more likely to become blind than similar aged
individuals with European ancestry. The risk for Hispanic Americans rises
markedly after age 60. Those of any ethnicity who have a family history of
the illness are four to nine times more susceptible.
A national survey commissioned in 2007 by the Academy for the EyeSmart
campaign found that only 24 percent of people in ethnic groups at higher
risk for glaucoma were aware of their risk, and only 16 percent of those
with a family history of eye disease, including glaucoma, could correctly
identify the risk factors for those diseases.
Other glaucoma risk factors include aging, nearsightedness, previous
eye injuries, steroid use, and health conditions including cardiovascular
disorders, diabetes, and migraine headache.
For individuals with symptoms of or at risk for eye diseases like
glaucoma, the Academy recommends that they see their ophthalmologist to
determine how frequently their eyes should be examined. The Academy
recommends that those with no symptoms or risk factors for eye disease get
a baseline screening at age 40 when the signs of disease and change in
vision may start to occur.
Glaucoma damages the optic nerve, the part of the eye that carries the
images we see to the brain. As glaucoma worsens, cells die in the retina --
a special, light-sensitive area of the eye -- reducing the optic nerve's
ability to relay visual information to the brain. In the most common form
of the disease, open-angle glaucoma, peripheral vision usually narrows,
then other blank spots occur in the visual field. Symptoms of the less
common but more acutely dangerous form of the disease, closed-angle
glaucoma, include blurred vision, severe eye pain and headache,
rainbow-colored halos around lights, and nausea and vomiting. Anyone with
these symptoms needs to be seen by an Eye M.D. right away.
More information on glaucoma and how to preserve vision, as well as how
to access care, is available on the Academy-sponsored web site
http://www.geteyesmart.org. Additional information is also available at the
American Glaucoma Society web site, http://www.glaucomaweb.org, and at the
Glaucoma Research Foundation web site, http://www.glaucoma.org.
Broadcast eds: Glaucoma B-roll footage is available from the Academy.
Please contact the Academy's media relations department for download
About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest
association of eye physicians and surgeons-Eye M.D.s-with more than 27,000
members worldwide. Eye health care is provided by the three "O's" --
opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or
Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases and injuries, and perform eye
surgery. To find an Eye M.D. in your area, visit the Academy's web site at
SOURCE American Academy of Ophthalmology