Glaucoma, the “Sneak Thief of Sight,” May Strike Without Pain or Other Symptoms

The American Optometric Association Offers Advice to Help Protect Against Vision Loss

ST. LOUIS (Dec. 12, 2013)−January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month and the American Optometric Association (AOA) is urging people of all ages to take control of their eye health through early detection to help minimize the risk of developing glaucoma. Glaucoma leads to progressive damage to the optic nerve and a loss of nerve tissue resulting in loss of vision. 

Currently, 2.7 million people in the United States over age 40 have glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S., yet understanding and awareness of the disease is still relatively low. According to data from the AOA's 2013 American Eye-Q® consumer survey, Americans do not fully understand glaucoma:

  • 72 percent think glaucoma has early warning signs-it does not—only a comprehensive eye exam administered by an eye doctor can detect the disease
  • 86 percent don't know what part of vision glaucoma affects—progressive deterioration to peripheral vision making it hard to see
  • 47 percent think glaucoma is preventable-it is not preventable but it may be treated and progression can be slowed if it is detected and treated early

"Yearly, comprehensive eye exams play a critical role in detection and treatment of glaucoma," said Robert Bittel, O.D., Chair of the AOA's Health Promotion Committee. "Dilated eye exams allow eye doctors to thoroughly examine the pressure and nerves inside the eyes for potential signs of the disease.  Early detection, prompt treatment and regular monitoring can help control glaucoma, and therefore, reduce the chances of progressive vision loss."

Americans are also unaware if they are at risk for developing glaucoma: only 13 percent of Americans know that a person's race could place them at a higher risk of developing glaucoma. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, glaucoma is six to eight times more common in African Americans than Caucasians. Additional factors that can increase the risk of developing glaucoma include those who have a family history of glaucoma, hypothyroidism, are over age 60 or individuals who have had severe eye trauma.

Treatment for glaucoma includes prescription eye drops and medicines to lower pressure in the eyes. In some cases, laser treatment or surgery may be effective in reducing pressure.

In addition to regular, comprehensive eye exams, the AOA recommends incorporating a few tips to help maintain overall eye health and clear, comfortable vision:

  • Eat green, leafy vegetables and foods rich in nutrients like beta carotene, vitamin C and zinc to protect eyes from disease.
  • Stop smoking and cut down on alcohol and caffeine when possible.
  • If you work in front of a computer, practice the 20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break to help avoid eye strain and computer vision syndrome.
  • Wear sunglasses with UV-A and UV-B protection year-round.
  • See your optometrist if you are experiencing stinging, itchy, or scratchy eyes, excessive tearing, or any eye discomfort or reduced vision; he or she may recommend artificial tears or tear substitutes, or prescribe medication.

To find a doctor of optometry, or for additional information on glaucoma and other issues concerning eye health, visit www.aoa.org.

About the survey:

The eighth annual American Eye-Q® survey was created and commissioned in conjunction with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB). From March 15-18, 2013 using an online methodology, PSB interviewed 1,000 Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of U.S. general population. (Margin of error at 95 percent confidence level) 

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):

The American Optometric Association, a federation of state, student and armed forces optometric associations, was founded in 1898. Today, the AOA is proud to represent the profession of optometry, America's family eye doctors, who take a leading role in an individual's overall eye and vision care, health and well-being. Doctors of optometry (ODs) are the independent primary health care professionals for the eye and have extensive, ongoing training to examine, diagnose, treat and manage disorders, diseases and injuries that affect the eye and visual system, providing two-thirds of primary eye care in the U.S. For information on a variety of eye health and vision topics, and to find an optometrist near you, visit www.aoa.org.

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