Every year in January, we make resolutions and evaluate what we want to change for the new year. That is one of the reasons I love that January is glaucoma awareness month. For many of us it can serve as a reminder that yearly eye exams are important and can help prevent blindness from a disease that many people don't even know they have. Glaucoma affects approximately 3 million Americans (60 million people worldwide). By 2030, the National Eye Institute projects this number will increase to 4.2 million. It is often called the "silent thief of vision" because in the early stages of the disease there are often no symptoms. However, once vision is lost, it is permanent and can not be restored. Vision loss begins with peripheral, or side, vision and gradually worsens over time. This allows the disease to progress to more advanced stages without a patient ever noticing until it is too late. In fact, Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness.
Now, the good news about glaucoma is that blindness is preventable for most patients! However, you have to come see us! According to the National Eye Institute, a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to catch glaucoma early. That is because when eye care providers dilate your pupils and look at the optic nerve year after year, we can pick up on subtle changes to your eye health that indicate glaucoma is occurring. Once we determine that a patient does, in fact, have glaucoma, we can prescribe medication to help keep the eye pressure low enough to prevent further damage to your optic nerve and ultimately your vision. Glaucoma does require close monitoring by an eye care provider, but with appropriate care blindness can be prevented.
So, when you are making all those resolutions this January, don't forget your annual eye exam!
~ Dr. Jacqueline Clark