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Currently, more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects that number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase.

With January being National Glaucoma Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to tell your friends and family what this sneaky disease is all about, and how early detection can help along the way.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning.  It’s a leading cause of irreversible blindness and can affect people of all ages. Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain.

Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight,” since there are no symptoms. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing. Experts estimate that half of the 60 million people worldwide who have glaucoma don’t know they have it.

Although there is no cure, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors. But early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease.

Regular Eye Exams are Important

Check out the infographic below from the NEI, which shows how in its most common form, there are virtually no symptoms with glaucoma. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have it, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost. The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye exam. Then, treatment can begin immediately, if necessary.

Be sure to discuss your family’s history with your eye doctor.  It has been shown that siblings of persons diagnosed with glaucoma have a significantly increased risk of having glaucoma.

Talk to friends and family about glaucoma. If you have glaucoma, don’t keep it a secret. Let your family members know. Urge your friends and family to annual eye exams.

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