Glaucoma, the “Sneak Thief of Sight”

Since January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to share some valuable information about the leading cause of irreversible blindness. Shockingly enough, more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma and it is projected to reach 4.2 million by 2030—a 58 percent increase. Additionally, about 120,000 are blind from glaucoma.

Glaucoma often presents no symptoms. Forty percent of vision can be lost without a person noticing and once vision is lost, it is permanently gone. For this reason, the eye disease if known as the “sneak thief of sight”.    

Worldwide Statistics for Glaucoma 

Over 60 million people worldwide have glaucoma and more than half don’t know they have it. And statistics from the World Health Organization indicate 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma.

What is Glaucoma? 

Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes damage to the optic nerve which gradually steals eye sight without warning. While the disease can affect people of all ages, it mainly afflicts the elderly and the middle-aged.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for glaucoma. However, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The proper treatment will depend on the type of glaucoma, progression, and other factors. Early detection is key to stopping the progression of the disease.

Vision loss due to glaucoma begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you begin to notice sight loss, you may have already lost significant vision.

Types of Glaucoma

There are several types of glaucoma, but the two main types are:

  1. Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG)
    Primary is the most common, about 90% of all cases, and is often called chronic glaucoma. The angle, where the iris meets the cornea, is a as wide and open as it should be.
  2. Angle-closure glaucoma
    Angle-closure is a less common form and is caused by blocked drainage canals that result in a sudden rise in intraocular pressure. This type of glaucoma develops very quickly and has a closed or narrow angle between the iris and cornea.

Risk Factors for Glaucoma

Those at risk for glaucoma include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent. Other high-risk groups are: people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted.

Importance of Regular Eye Exams

The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination each year. It is especially important for those who fall within this high-risk category to help prevent unnecessary vision loss. A yearly eye exam can allow your eye doctor to detect any changes in your eyes or vision that might indicate early-stage glaucoma.

For more details, visit the Glaucoma Research Foundation website.