January 2015

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Health Capsule

Detect Glaucoma Early To Protect Vision

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve, which carries visual signals from the eye to the brain. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to vision loss or blindness. But many people with early-stage glaucoma have no symptoms. By the time they’re diagnosed, they may have already noticed changes to their side, or peripheral, vision.

“Studies show that at least half of all people with glaucoma don’t know they have this potentially blinding eye disease,” says Dr. Paul Sieving, director of NIH’s National Eye Institute. “The good news is that glaucoma can be detected in its early stages through a comprehensive dilated eye exam.”

With early detection, glaucoma can be controlled through medications or surgery. Early treatment can protect the eyes against serious vision loss.

Anyone can get glaucoma, but some people are at increased risk. At-risk groups include African Americans ages 40 and older; everyone over age 60, especially Hispanics/Latinos; and people who have a family history of the disease.

If you’re at increased risk, be sure to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam every 1 to 2 years. And encourage family members to do the same.

Watch this glaucoma animation to learn more about how glaucoma affects the eyes or this video to hear from an NIH ophthalmologist about why early detection is so important. For more information, tips for finding an eye care provider, or financial assistance for eye care, visit www.nei.nih.gov/glaucoma.