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Glaucoma: The “silent thief of sight”

Glaucoma: The “silent thief of sight”

by Dr. Roxanna Potter, FLT Columnist

Glaucoma can come with no warning and no noticeable symptoms, and is the second most common cause of blindness in the United States. Given the nickname “silent thief of sight,” glaucoma is a very serious and often overlooked condition. Damage to the eye from glaucoma is irreversible, and most patients will not notice a problem themselves until it’s too late. Simply put, good vision does not necessarily mean good eye health.
January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month and I’d like to encourage all people, especially those at higher risk for this disease, to familiarize themselves with the need for regular eye examinations. A comprehensive eye exam is especially critical since a person with early-stage glaucoma usually won’t notice any symptoms at all. It’s not uncommon to discover glaucoma during a routine exam in patients who just came in for new glasses or contacts. There are numerous eye structures and functions that are checked during an exam that may indicate glaucoma, including increased eye pressure and/or thin or damaged retinal nerve tissue. We have technology now that allows us to find the very earliest stages of glaucoma even before permanent vision loss has occurred, so there’s no reason to put off having an annual check done.
Glaucoma affects an estimated 3 million Americans. It can affect people of all ages, not just the elderly. Some people are more at risk than others. Those at higher risk include:
• People over the age of 60
• African-Americans over age 40
• People with diabetes
• Individuals that have experienced a serious eye injury
• Anyone with a family history of glaucoma
Even if you see 20/20, glaucoma may be present, slowly and sneakily damaging the retina until it’s too late. While there is no cure for glaucoma, early detection and treatment can slow or prevent future vision loss. As it is for most diseases, the earlier the disease is found, the simpler and more effective the treatment.