Glaucoma is a major cause of vision loss in the United States, affecting about 2.2 million Americans. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damages the optic nerve, the bundle of nerve cells that relays visual information from the eye to the brain. In the most common form of glaucoma, called primary open angle glaucoma, nerve damage results from an increase in intraocular pressure the pressure inside the eye. Increased intraocular pressure occurs when the fluid that circulates in and out of the front part of the eye drains too slowly.
Glaucoma is usually painless, initially affects peripheral vision, and progresses slowly, which helps explain why half of all people with glaucoma are unaware they have it. Without adequate treatment, glaucoma eventually affects central vision and progresses to blindness. Vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible.
Glaucoma is a complex disease and progress toward preventing or reversing the condition has been slow; however, NEI's multipronged approach to glaucoma research is making great strides.
Epidemiological studies funded by NEI have identified populations at higher risk of glaucoma, including African-Americans ages 40 and older; everyone age 60 and older, especially Mexican Americans; and people with a family history of the disease.
Some people have normal intraocular pressure despite having glaucoma. According to an NEI survey, more than 90 percent of Americans have heard of glaucoma. However, only 8 percent are aware glaucoma has no early symptoms. During Glaucoma Awareness Month, NEHEP is targeting people at higher risk of glaucoma by working with media outlets to disseminate glaucoma information.
Help spread the word this January. Early detection and treatment is the best way to prevent vision loss from glaucoma. Encourage those at risk to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam.
For more information about glaucoma, comprehensive dilated eye exams, and financial assistance available for eye care, visit http://www.nei.nih.gov/glaucoma
Medicare also provides glaucoma screenings as a benefit to some beneficiaries click to review the Medicare Brochure Explaining Glaucoma Screening Benefits