2010-02-04 / Features

Glaucoma Takes Sight Without War ning

Optometrists offer advice to help protect against vision loss

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According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), early detection and treatment is critical to maintain healthy vision and protect the eyes from the effects of potentially blinding diseases, such as glaucoma. Studies show that over the next ten years the number of Americans diagnosed with glaucoma will increase by more than 1 million, yet Americans are still not doing as much as they should to help protect their vision.

Although glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the U.S., awareness of the disease is relatively low. According to data from the AOA’s latest American Eye-Q consumer survey, less than a quarter of all Americans know glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve. The survey also indicated 6 in 10 Americans incorrectly believe glaucoma is preventable.

While the disease is not preventable, it is treatable, and regular, comprehrensive eye exam play a critical role in successful outcomes for patients. Unfortunately, the Eye-Q survey also found 20 percent of adults who do not wear glasses or contacts have never been to an eye doctor. The Pennsylvania Optometric Association recommends eye exams every two yeas for adults under age 60 and every year thereafter. Eye doctors may recommend more frequent appointments based on an individual’s overall health, risk factors or family history.

Glaucoma is often referred to as “the sneak thief of sight” because it can strike without pain or other symptoms. Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored, so early detection and treatment is paramount.

Americans also are not aware of the factors that put them most at risk for developing glaucoma. Only 20 percent of those surveyed indicate knowing that race or ethnicity may increase their risk. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, African-Americans ages 45 to 65 are 14 to 17 times more likely o go blind from glaucoma than Caucasians. Other risk factors include people who have a family history of glaucoma, are over age 60 or have had severe eye trauma. Some studies suggest high mounts of nearsightedness, cardiovascular disease and diabetes may also be risk factors for the development of glaucoma.

In addition to regular, comprehrensive eye exams, the Pennsylvania Optometric Association also recommends incorporating a few easy tips to help save or improve sight:

Watch that diet: eat green, leafy vegetables and foods rich in nutrients like beta carotene, vitamin C and zinc to protect eyes from disease.

Cut down on those bad habits: cigarettes and alcohol or excessive caffeine intake can all be harmful to the eyes.

If you work in front of a computer, practice the 20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break to help void eye strain and computer vision syndrome.

Wear those shades: Both adults and children should ear sunglasses year-round with UVA and UV-B protection.

See your optometrist if you are experiencing stinging, itchy or scratchy yes, excessive tearing, or any eye discomfort or reduced vision; he or she may recommend artificial tears or tear substitutes or prescribe medication.

To find a doctor of optometry in your area, or for additional information on glaucoma and other issues concerning eye health, please visit www.poaeyes.org.

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