More than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma - the leading cause of preventable blindness - but only half realize they have the disease. By 2030, the Glaucoma Research Foundation expects glaucoma cases to more than double (58 percent).
Glaucoma is often called the "sneak thief of sight" because there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it’s permanent. The disease damages the optic nerve, and is caused by a build-up of fluid in the eye, causing pressure.
It’s an inherited disease more prominent among African Americans and older adults. While vision loss is permanent, doctors focus on slowing and preventing the progression of vision loss once glaucoma is diagnosed.
“We can treat patients with medication or eye drops,” said Dr. Huiyi Chen, ophthalmogist with Mercy Clinic Eye Specialists. “However, in some cases, it does require surgery to try and manage the disease.”
Because of the irreversible damage glaucoma can case, annual eye exams that check the pressure of the eyes can make all the difference.
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to spread the word about the disease. Visit www.glaucoma.org to join the cause.