LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. The Glaucoma Research Foundation estimates that 2.7 million people in the United States over age 40 have this disease - also called "the sneak thief of sight."
Dr. Lydia Lane with Little Rock Eye Clinic stops by "THV 11 News This Morning" to explain more.
Glaucoma damages the eye's optic nerve. This vital nerve sends signals from your retina to your brain - allowing you to see images clearly.
In a healthy eye, a clear fluid circulates inside the front portion of your eye. To maintain a constant healthy pressure, your eye continually produces a small amount of this fluid while an equal amount of this fluid flows out of your eye. If you have glaucoma, the fluid does not flow out of the eye properly.
Experts say that nearly 50 percent of the people with glaucoma don't even know they have it. That's why it's called the "sneak thief of sight". It's possible to lose up to 40 percent of your vision before you notice. That's because there are no symptoms or obvious signs in the early stages of glaucoma.
It often begins with blind spots in your peripheral vision - something you might not notice right away. That's why it's so important to set up a regular exam with your eye doctor. There are several tests we can do to check for the disease...and if caught early we can begin treatment.
Although people over 60 are at higher risk, glaucoma can affect someone of any age. Some risk factors include having diabetes or a family history of glaucoma and people who are severely nearsighted. Also at higher risk include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent. Even if you aren't at risk, you should have a complete eye disease screening by age 40 and once you reach age 65 you should have an exam every year or as recommended by your doctor.
Treatment depends on a couple of factors - the type of Glaucoma you have been diagnosed with and the stage at which you are diagnosed. Your doctor will come up with a treatment plan based on how you respond to his or her interventions. This could be medication in the form of eye drops that reduce pressure or surgery to address fluid in your eye.
There is no cure but if found early and treated you can slow or even prevent further vision loss.