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Glaucoma awareness monthJanuary is Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to raise awareness around a condition known as “the sneak thief of sight.” There are virtually no symptoms with glaucoma, so many people don’t know they have the disease. Once vision is lost, it cannot be restored. Startling, up to 40% of vision can be lost before a person becomes aware.

Currently there are 3 million Americans living with glaucoma (over 60 million worldwide), and the National Eye Institute expects this number to increase to 4.2 million by 2030. Let’s learn more about what glaucoma is, who is at risk and what you can do to protect your vision.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases that steal vision without any side effects like eye pain or redness. Though it’s most common in middle-aged and older adults, glaucoma can affect people of all ages.

There are two main types of glaucoma: primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. Both conditions are caused by a buildup of pressure in the eye that presses on the optic nerve. The optic nerve becomes damaged and vision is lost.

Who is at Risk for Glaucoma?

Glaucoma can happen to anyone, but some people are more at risk than others. These individuals are:

  • Over the age 60
  • Have a family history of glaucoma
  • Had an injury to the eye
  • Have high hypertension
  • Have high myopia (nearsightedness)
  • African American or Asian
  • Steroid users

What is the Best Way to Prevent Glaucoma?

The best way to prevent damage from glaucoma is to see your eye doctor regularly. There are no symptoms with glaucoma, and because loss happens in your peripheral (side) vision, it’s hard to know that anything is wrong until it’s too late.

When you see your eye doctor, you can be checked for glaucoma. If your doctor finds something, treatment can begin right away. There is no cure for glaucoma, but it can be controlled with medications, eye drops and surgery.