Glaucoma, which affects more than three million Americans and over 25,000 Arkansans, is the second leading cause of blindness in this country and is the leading cause of preventable blindness.
"There are no early warning signs. Once vision problems begin, the damage is irreversible,” says Dr. Evan Newbolt. “Glaucoma is not curable, but it can be managed if caught in time: that’s why early detection is critical.”
Glaucoma damages the optic nerve, leading to progressive loss of vision. It is often referred to as the “sneak thief of sight” because the progression is gradual, and many people do not realize they have Glaucoma until serious symptoms appear.
Glaucoma is often – but not always – a result of increased pressure within the eye. People of African and Asian descent have an elevated risk for Glaucoma, as well as those with a family history of the disease. While the elderly are at increased risk, nobody – regardless of age – is immune from Glaucoma.
Testing for Glaucoma requires an eye examination that includes an intraocular pressure check, a quick and painless test that monitors the eyes pressure. The Glaucoma Research Foundation recommends the following schedule to be checked for Glaucoma:
- before age 40, every two to four years
- from age 40 to age 54, every one to three years
- from age 55 to 64, every one to two years
- after age 65, every six to 12 months
- anyone with high risk factors should be tested every year or two after age 35
“We have patients who walk in every day who don’t know their vision is steadily being compromised by glaucoma,” says Dr. James Hoffmann. “We hope that during Glaucoma Awareness Month people will be reminded to see their eye doctor so we can diagnose and treat glaucoma before it becomes a serious health and lifestyle issue.”