January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

1/9/2012

​It's the start of a new year, and the perfect time to discuss glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States.

About 3 million Americans aged 40 or older have glaucoma, according to the National Eye Institute, but fewer than half of them know it. Glaucoma can strike without symptoms. As a result, it is often known as "the sneak thief of sight." Left untreated, the condition begins to affect central vision and progresses to irreversible blindness.

"That's why early detection is critical to maintaining healthy vision," PeaceHealth Medical Group ophthalmologist Daniel Bustos, MD, says. "Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but the condition is treatable if caught in the early stages."

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve, the bundle of nerve cellls that relays visual information from the eye to the brain. It is usually painless, initially affects peripheral vision and progresses slowly, which helps explain why it often goes undetected.

More than 2.2 million Americans aged 40 years or older have open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the disease, and at least 50 percent of them don't know they have it.

People who are very nearsighted, diabetic, or have a family history of glaucoma are at higher risk for the disease. Dr. Bustos recommends regular comprehensive eye examinations for people at risk. The examination includes a tonometry test to measure pressure in the eyes, an examination of the inside of the eyes and the optic nerves, and a visual field test to check for changes in central and peripheral vision.

"Losing your sight can be devastating, so there is no substitute for doing all you can to maintain your eye health through regular exams," Dr. Bustos says.

To make an appointment with a PeaceHealth Medical Group ophthalmologist, please call 541-687-6257.