Glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness, afflicts more than 82,000 Georgians.
Prevent Blindness has joined with other leading vision and eye health groups in observing January as National Glaucoma Awareness Month.
Jenny Pomeroy, the group’s CEO, said that the organization hopes that everyone will make their eye health a priority this year and schedule an eye exam.
“Through early detection and treatment, we can help lessen the effects of glaucoma and other eye diseases on vision,” Pomeroy said in a Jan. 9 statement.
Glaucoma is often referred to as the “sneak thief of sight” because symptoms develop so gradually that the patient may not notice them right away. Glaucoma is actually a group of eye conditions that can damage the optic nerve.
Cataracts – clouding of the lenses in the eyes – are the leading cause of blindness.
Symptoms for open-angle glaucoma may include developing blind spots in the peripheral vision. If left untreated, over time, glaucoma also may damage central vision. More than 2.7 million Americans age 40 and older have open-angle glaucoma. This is a 22 percent increase from just 10 years ago, according to the 2012 Vision Problems in the U.S. report from Prevent Blindness America and the National Eye Institute.
Risk factors for glaucoma include age, family history, nearsightedness, eye injury or surgery, and the use of steroid medications.
Race is another major risk factor. Glaucoma is five times more likely to occur in blacks than in whites, and blacks are four times more likely to go blind from it. Hispanics are more likely to develop glaucoma after age 60 than any other group.
Once vision is lost to glaucoma, it cannot be restored. However, promising research from the University of Michigan Medical School, led by Dr. Joshua Stein, found that the risk for glaucoma was reduced by eight percent in hyperlipidemia patients who took statins continuously for two years, compared with patients who did not take statins.
The study, “The Relationship Between Statin Use and Open-Angle Glaucoma,” found that statin use may be most effective in the early stages of the disease or as a preventive measure. The findings offer encouragement for future research on the effects of statins on a broader group of people.
Prevent Blindness Georgia provides free resources to educate the public on glaucoma through “The Glaucoma Learning Center” at www.preventblindess.org/glaucoma and printed materials available by calling 404-266-2020. The organization touches the lives of thousands each year through public and professional education, advocacy, certified vision screening and training, and community and patient service programs.
For more information on glaucoma or Medicare benefits for glaucoma services, visit www.pbga.org or call Prevent Blindness Georgia at 404-266-2020.