Early Detection Crucial to Preventing Vision Loss

Dec. 23, 2003
Nearly 92,000 Ohioans age 40 and older have glaucoma and half don't even know the disease is slowly robbing them of eyesight. Often glaucoma has no noticeable symptoms in its early stages.

For instance, glaucoma is often called the 'sneak thief of sight' because it slowly robs people of their vision without them realizing it. The number of people with glaucoma is expected to double over the next 30 years as the Baby Boomer generation ages. More than 2.5 million Ohioans will be affected by glaucoma and other potentially blinding eye diseases. During National Glaucoma Awareness Month in January, Prevent Blindness Ohio urges people age 40 and older to learn about the disease and undergo proper testing.

"The challenge is to get people to visit their eye doctor regularly, especially if they are at risk for the disease, because early detection is crucial," said Sherill K. Williams, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness Ohio. In the early stages, glaucoma has no symptoms no noticeable vision loss and no pain. By the time symptoms start to appear, some permanent damage to the eye has usually occurred.

When you have glaucoma, a fluid called aqueous humor doesn't drain correctly through channels in the front of the eye. The fluid build-up leads to increased intraocular pressure, which damages the optic nerve. Untreated, glaucoma can permanently damage the optic nerve, leading to reduced vision or even blindness. While there is no cure, glaucoma is usually a treatable condition, if diagnosed early.

Risk factors for glaucoma include:

  • Age: Those ages 40 and older are more likely to develop glaucoma. The older you are, the greater your risk.
  • Race: People of African or Afro-Caribbean heritage have glaucoma four to five times more often than the rest of the population. They are also likely to develop glaucoma at a younger age.
  • Family History: If you have a parent or sibling who has glaucoma, you are more likely to develop the disease.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing glaucoma.
  • Nearsightedness: People who are very nearsighted are at greater risk.
  • Eye Injury or Surgery: Those who have had eye surgery or eye injuries may develop secondary glaucoma.
  • Steroid Medication: Steroids may increase the risk of glaucoma when used for extended periods of time.
About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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