Glaucoma is one of the most common causes of vision loss, especially for older adults and African Americans. Yet many people don’t fully understand what glaucoma is and why it’s so important to diagnose and treat it early. January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an opportunity to educate more people about this “sight-stealing” disease that currently affects more than 3 million people in the United States.
Glaucoma typically causes vision loss by damaging the optic nerve, located in the back of the eye. The role of the optic nerve is to convey visual information from the retina to the vision centers of the brain. Abnormal blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and race are all risk factors for glaucoma, according to the National Eye Institute.
The tricky thing about glaucoma is that many people don’t show any symptoms initially, so they don’t realize they have the disease until they begin to experience irreversible vision loss. But while the damage caused by glaucoma is permanent, early treatment can slow or prevent full loss of vision.
In addition to early detection and treatment, there are a number of other things people with glaucoma can do to minimize the vision loss caused by their condition. Ten of those things are outlined in this article from the American Academy of Ophthalmology: