Early detection is key to saving vision
(ARA) - Glaucoma is known as the silent thief of sight because in its early stages, there is no pain or any other symptoms. It can steal your vision before you even know you have the disease. In fact, more than 4 million people have glaucoma, and 2 million of them don't know it.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for glaucoma, and any loss of vision is permanent. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself against vision loss from glaucoma.
Anyone can have glaucoma, but some people are at higher risk. Anyone over age 60 and African Americans over age 40 are at higher risk for glaucoma. Glaucoma is three to four times more likely to occur in African Americans than in Caucasians. If you have diabetes, or if someone in your family already has glaucoma, you are also in a higher risk category.
In patients with glaucoma, the normal fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises, causing damage to the optic nerve and leading to vision loss -- or even blindness. As the disease progresses, a patient may notice his or her side vision gradually failing.
"Glaucoma is found most often during an eye examination through dilated pupils," said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Eye Institute (NEI), one of the federal government's National Institutes of Health. According to Sieving, drops are put into the eyes during the exam to enlarge the pupils and enable the eye care professional to see more of the inside of the eye to look for any changes to the optic nerve, a sign of glaucoma.
"Studies have shown that the early detection and treatment of glaucoma, before it causes major vision loss, is the best way to control the disease," said Sieving. Treatments for open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the disease, include medications, laser surgery, and conventional surgery. If you are eligible for Medicare and at higher risk for glaucoma, you can take advantage of a new preventive benefit that covers a dilated eye examination each year.
NEI is conducting research to determine the causes of glaucoma and to improve diagnosis and treatment. The Institute also supports clinical trials of new drugs and surgical techniques that show promise to treat glaucoma.
For more information, write to Glaucoma, 2020 Vision Place, Bethesda, MD, 20892-3655
, or visit http://www.nei.nih.gov.
For more information on Medicare's coverage of dilated eye examinations for glaucoma, call (800)Medicare (633-4227) or visit http://www.medicare.gov.
For a referral to an eye care professional, call the American Academy
of Ophthalmology at (800)391-3937 or the American Optometric Association at (800)262-3947.Author
The National Eye Institute is part of the National Institutes of Health and is the Federal government's lead agency for vision research. NEI-supported research leads to sight-saving treatments and plays a key role in reducing visual impairment and blindness. The NIH is an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
For more information: http://www.nei.nih.gov/amd