FRANKFORT, KY (1/2/12) – According to the Kentucky Optometric Association (KOA), 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.
Kentucky’s doctors of optometry are raising awareness about the disease and how Kentuckians can help protect their vision during Glaucoma Awareness Month in January. More than half of Americans who have glaucoma remain undiagnosed, primarily due to a lack of annual comprehensive eye examinations.
“People who do not visit their eye doctor on a regular basis are putting their vision and quality of life at risk,” said Dr. Ben Gaddie, who practices optometry in the Louisville area, serves as president of the KOA and is president-elect of the international Optometric Glaucoma Society. “Glaucoma is often referred to as ‘the sneak thief of sight’ because it can strike without pain or other symptoms. Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored, so early detection and treatment are paramount.”
Although glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States, awareness and understanding of the disease is relatively low. According to data from the American Optometric Association’s latest survey, 50 percent of Americans incorrectly believe glaucoma is preventable and less than 20 percent of all Americans know that glaucoma primarily causes deterioration to peripheral vision.
Although the disease is not curable, it is treatable, and regular, comprehensive eye exams play a critical role in successful results for patients. Kentucky’s doctors of optometry recommend an annual eye exam for all patients, and it is essential for anyone with risk factors for glaucoma, including a family history, African Americans, Hispanics and patients with a history of increased eye pressure.
Americans also are not aware of the factors that put them most at risk for developing glaucoma. Only 17 percent of those surveyed indicated knowing that race or ethnicity may increase their risk.
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, African Americans ages 45 to 65 are 14 to 17 times more likely to go blind from glaucoma than Caucasians. Other risk factors include people who have a family history of glaucoma, are over age 60, or have had severe eye trauma. Some studies suggest high amounts of nearsightedness, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes may also be risk factors for the development of glaucoma.
To find a doctor of optometry in your area, visit www.kyeyes.org.
Information/graphics provided by Carla Blanton
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