FRANKFORT, Ky. (1/14/13) – Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States. However, awareness surrounding the disease is relatively low, according to a recent survey from the American Optometric Association.
That’s why the Kentucky Optometric Association (KOA) is emphasizing the need for an annual dilated eye exam during Glaucoma Awareness Month in January.
Early detection and treatment is critical to protect the eyes from glaucoma, which will be diagnosed in an additional 1 million Americans over the next 10 years. More than half of Americans who have glaucoma remain undiagnosed, primarily due to a lack of annual comprehensive eye examinations.
“Glaucoma is often referred to as ‘the sneak thief of sight’ because it can strike without pain or other symptoms,” said Dr. Ben Gaddie, who practices optometry in the Louisville area, serves as president of the international Optometric Glaucoma Society and is past president of the KOA. “Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored, so early detection and treatment is extremely important.”
According to data from recent survey by the American Optometric Association’s American Eye-Q consumer survey, 90 percent of Americans incorrectly believe glaucoma is preventable, and 72 percent mistakenly think glaucoma has early warning signs.
Regular eye exams are the first line of defense for early detection of glaucoma, according to the KOA. The disease often strikes without pain or other symptoms, so it is crucial for patients to receive a dilated eye exam where their eye doctor can thoroughly examine the pressure and nerves inside the eyes for potential signs of the disease.
The survey also discovered that Americans are not aware of the factors that put them most at risk for developing glaucoma: 86 percent of respondents are unaware that a person’s race places 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.
Other risk factors include:
• A family history of glaucoma;
• Being over age 60; and
• Previous 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.
To find a doctor of optometry in your area, visit www.kyeyes.org.
Information provided by Carla Blanton
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