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Glaucoma Awareness Month (January)

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. According to a report by the National Eye Institute and Prevent Blindness America, glaucoma affects more that 2.2 million Americans age 40 and older. The prevalence of glaucoma is related to age and race, occurring more often in African Americans and Latino American, and affecting all with increasing age.

Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes a gradual degeneration of cells that form the optic nerve. A healthy optic nerve is essential because it carries visual information from the eye to the brain. As optic nerve cells are damaged, patches of vision are lost, usually in the side vision (peripheral). Overtime, glaucoma can also damage your central vision. The loss of vision is slow and unnoticeable until a great deal of damage to the optic nerve has already occurred, which is permanent.

Elevated fluid pressure within the eye (Intraocular pressure) seems to be related in some way to most cases of glaucoma. Most cases can be controlled and vision loss slowed or halted with treatment. Treatments available to lower intraocular pressure are medications, laser and surgery. Many types of Glaucoma exist, so speak to you physician about what type you may have or are at most risk of having, as well as what treatment may be most beneficial to you specifically.

These risk factors may increase your chance of having glaucoma:

  • Age – The older you are, the greater your risk.
  • Race – African-Americans have glaucoma four to five times more often than others. African-Americans are also likely to have glaucoma at a younger age.
  • Family history – If you have a parent, brother or sister with glaucoma, you are more likely to get glaucoma too. If you have glaucoma, your family members should get complete eye exams.
  • Medical history – Diabetes, previous eye injuries, eye surgery or long-term steroid use can increase your risk of glaucoma.

Anyone can get glaucoma. Glaucoma affects one in 200 people age 50 and younger. The rate increases to one in 10 over the age of 80. For more information, please refer to Prevent Blindness America

Information provided by Dana H. Breeding, RN Health Educator from Community Wellness, at Augusta Health. To contact her related to the above information, please call 332-4988 or 932-4988.