Did you know that …

Each year the National Health Information Center issues a calendar of events. January is not only Thyroid Awareness Month; it is also Glaucoma Awareness Month.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. While it can affect anyone of any age, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among people of African-American or Hispanic descent. You can not prevent glaucoma from occurring, but you can treat it.

There are two basic types of glaucoma. Each type has to do with the amount of pressure within the eye. Glaucoma can occur without any symptoms.

The eye contains a thick substance that drains from deep within the eye and is replaced naturally. If the pressure within the eye (intraocular) rises due to poor drainage, the optic nerve at the back of the eye is damaged. The optic nerve leads from the eye to the sight centers in the brain. Glaucoma caused by increased intraocular pressure is the most common form of glaucoma. Normal pressure glaucoma is not as common.

Normal pressure glaucoma is the name given to optic nerve damage that occurs even when the intraocular pressure is normal. It is more prevalent in women than in men. Other risk factors are: a family history of glaucoma (either type), being of Japanese ancestry and having cardiovascular disease.

Treatment for glaucoma involves eye drops and, occasionally, surgery. Treatment depends on the type of glaucoma. There is no cure for glaucoma and some loss of vision occurs in many cases. However, early diagnosis and continued treatment will minimize loss of vision. Early diagnosis and continued treatment will prevent blindness.

Only an eye-care professional can diagnose glaucoma. Have an eye exam every 2 to 4 years before the age of 40 (35 if you have any risk factors) and more frequently after that. The exam should include checking the pressure within your eyes (tonometry) and looking at the backs of your eyes. Neither of these procedures involves cutting the eye and both are done in the professional’s office.

Early diagnosis and continued treatment: words to remember.

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Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN

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