Beware of lurking, sneak thief of sight

January 11th, 2009 - 2:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 11 (IANS) Beware of glaucoma, described as ‘the sneak thief of sight,’ because it strikes quietly and without pain, one of the leading causes of blindness in the US. Unfortunately, the bulk of Americans or 91 percent erroneously believe that glaucoma is preventable, according to the latest survey by the American Optometric Association (AOA).

Although glaucoma is not preventable, doctors can help a patient control the disease, if diagnosed early. Medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss.

Nearly 2.2 million Americans aged 40 and above have glaucoma which blinds as many as 120,000. These numbers are expected to reach 3.3 million by 2020, as baby boomers age, according to National Glaucoma Research.

Glaucoma is a group of disorders that strikes when internal pressure in the eye increases enough to cause damage to the optic nerve, leading to loss of nerve tissue and vision loss, according to the AOA.

AOA’s annual Eye-Q® survey, which identifies attitudes and behaviours of Americans regarding eye care and related issues, showed that a large number of consumers do not know what glaucoma is and how severe the effects of the disease can be.

Ninety-five percent of respondents did not know that glaucoma damages the optic nerve, and only 21 percent of respondents were aware that glaucoma causes deterioration of peripheral or side vision.

According to the AOA, there are two types of glaucoma. The most common type, primary open-angle glaucoma, develops gradually and painlessly, usually without symptoms.

A rarer type, acute angle-closure glaucoma, occurs rapidly, and its symptoms may include blurred vision, loss of peripheral vision, seeing coloured rings around lights, and pain or redness in the eyes, said an AOA release.

“As glaucoma progresses, a person may notice their side vision gradually failing,” said Kerry Beebe, chairman of AOA’s Clinical Care Group Executive Committee.

“When glaucoma remains untreated, people may miss seeing objects to the side and out of the corner of their eye. Without treatment, people with glaucoma will continue to slowly lose their peripheral vision, and eventually their central vision as well. And vision lost to glaucoma cannot be recovered, so early detection and treatment is paramount,” he said.

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