Glaucoma, a degenerative eye disease that causes damage to the optic nerve, is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization. To observe Glaucoma Awareness Month, ophthalmologists at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai and the Mount Sinai Health System are offering tips for prevention and early detection of the condition.
In most cases, there are few symptoms of glaucoma. Gradually peripheral or side vision begins to worsen without patients realizing it, which enables the disease to progress into later stages.
"Glaucoma has been called the 'silent thief of vision,'" says James C. Tsai, MD, MBA, Chair, Department of Ophthalmology, Mount Sinai Health System and President, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai. "We actually think that glaucoma is not just one disease, but a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve," he says. "We suspect that there is a genetic predisposition, but it's complicated — many genes have been discovered to have some association with glaucoma."
Experts Available for Interview
•James C. Tsai, MD, MBA, Chair, Department of Ophthalmology, Mount Sinai Health System and President, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai
•Paul A. Sidoti, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology and Deputy Chair for Clinical Affairs, Department of Ophthalmology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the Mount Sinai Health System
Facts about Glaucoma
•Currently, 2.7 million people in the United States over age 40 have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase (Glaucoma Research Foundation)
•Glaucoma costs the U.S. economy $2.86 billion every year in direct costs and productivity losses
•Glaucoma is most prevalent among African and Hispanic populations. Glaucoma is 6 to 8 times more common in African Americans than Caucasians (www.glaucoma.org)
•Risk factors include individuals over 60 years old, family history, diabetes, high blood pressure, eye injuries, and congenital defects
•Glaucoma doesn't only impact adults. Childhood glaucoma — also referred to as congenital, pediatric, or infantile glaucoma — occurs in infants and young children. It is usually diagnosed within the first year of life
Tips for Glaucoma Prevention
•Find out if there is a history of glaucoma in your family
•Schedule routine eye examinations with an ophthalmologist to help prevent unnecessary vision loss from glaucoma and other eye conditions
•Minimize prolonged head-down positions (e.g. yoga downward positions) that some research suggests may elevate eye pressure
Mount Sinai Health System