May is Healthy Vision Month. To mark the occasion, NIH’s National Eye Institute is focusing attention on a group of diseases called glaucoma. Left untreated, glaucoma can damage the optic nerve and destroy eyesight.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the U.S. More than 4 million people nationwide have it, but nearly half of them don’t realize it. That’s because the condition has no early warning signs. Fortunately, glaucoma can be detected through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Early detection can lead to earlier treatment, which can control the disease and prevent future vision loss.
Anyone can develop glaucoma, but some people are at higher risk than others. Those at increased risk include African Americans over age 40; everyone over age 60, especially Mexican Americans; and people with a family history of glaucoma. If you are at higher risk, you should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam every 1 or 2 years.
During the dilated eye exam, you receive eyedrops that dilate, or widen, the pupil in the center of your eye. This allows your eye care professional to see inside the eye and detect subtle signs of glaucoma. The exam can also show if you have additional risk factors. In some people, certain medicated eyedrops can cut the risk of developing glaucoma by about half.
Protect your eyesight. Be sure to get regular eye exams, and spread the word about glaucoma to your family and friends.