January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, and ophthalmologists at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai are urging high-risk groups to get comprehensive eye exams for early detection of this degenerative eye disease.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States and across the world. The disease is referred to as the "silent thief of sight," because it has no symptoms in the early stages. Approximately 3 million people over the age of 40 have glaucoma, and half of those people don't even know it. The disease damages the optic nerve when fluid builds up in the front part of the eye, increasing eye pressure. Peripheral or side vision gradually worsens without the patient realizing it as the disease progresses into later stages. If left undetected and untreated, glaucoma can cause complete blindness. Vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible.
Mount Sinai is at the forefront of glaucoma treatment. We have new powerful once-a-day drugs that can lower eye pressure dramatically. Some of the newer minimally invasive surgeries are exciting. In the future there will even be a role for augmented intelligence computer programs to help optimize treatment."
Louis Pasquale, MD, Site Chair of Ophthalmology at The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai Queens and Vice Chair of Translational Ophthalmology Research for the Mount Sinai Health System
Facts on Glaucoma
- An estimated 4 million people will have glaucoma by 2030 and 6 million will have it by 2050 (National Eye Institute).
- Glaucoma can affect everyone from babies to senior citizens.
- There are many types of glaucoma; primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common type.
- African American and Latino populations have a greater tendency to develop primary open-angle glaucoma.
- People over the age of 45 are at highest risk.
- Glaucoma often runs in families and may be inherited.
- People with diabetes, nearsightedness, regular steroid/cortisone use, and extremely high or low blood pressure are also at risk.
Tips on detection
- Early diagnosis is key to preventing vision loss.
- People under the age of 40 should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam every three to four years.
- People under 40 with risk factors should have the eye exam every one to two years.
- Patients 40 and older should have a comprehensive exam every one to two years.
- Everyone 40 and older with risk factors should be examined annually.
- Patients 65 and older should have yearly comprehensive exams.
- Since vision loss is irreversible, the goal is to get the eye pressure under control early on, using:
- Eye Drops
- Laser Surgery
- Eye Operation