January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, an observance that aims to spread awareness about the sight-stealing disease. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness by damaging the optic nerve in the back of your eye.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the United States and has no early symptoms — which is why half of people with glaucoma don’t know they have it.
The only way to check for glaucoma is to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam. There’s no cure, but early treatment, such as medicines, laser treatment and surgery, can often stop the damage and prevent further vision loss.
There are many different types of glaucoma, but the most common type in the United States is called open-angle glaucoma — that’s what most people mean when they talk about the disease. Other types are less common, like angle-closure glaucoma and congenital glaucoma.
Anyone can get glaucoma, but some people are at higher risk, including people who:
- Are over age 60
- Are Black/African American and over age 40
- Are Hispanic/Latino
- Have a family history of the disease
There are five important things to know about glaucoma
- It can cause vision loss and blindness, which can’t be reversed.
- There are no early symptoms.
- In the United States, half the people who have glaucoma don’t know they do.
- Some people are at a higher risk than others.
- The only way to know if you have the disease is with a dilated eye exam.
It is called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it’s permanent. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing.
The National Eye Institute offers resources such as fact sheets, infographics, and videos and webinars with more information on how to catch glaucoma early and how people with the disease can protect their vision.
Catch glaucoma early—call your eye care provider today to schedule an exam.