• Early Detection Critical to Treating Glaucoma

    American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds public of importance of eye exams

    SAN FRANCISCO — Glaucoma is a major cause of vision loss worldwide. It affects more than 3 million people in the United States—nearly half of whom are unaware they have the disease. During Glaucoma Awareness Month in January, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is reminding the public that early detection and treatment can help protect your sight. 

    Glaucoma damages the optic nerve, which transmits visual information from the retina to the brain. Typically, the disease initially has no signs or symptoms. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause irreversible blindness. 

    The Academy recommends that everyone have a comprehensive eye exam at age 40. This exam provides ophthalmologists – physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care – an opportunity to carefully examine the eye including the optic nerve for signs of damage and other possible problems that may affect vision. Individuals at greater risk for developing glaucoma include people: 

    • over age 40;
    • of African, Asian or Hispanic heritage;
    • who have high eye pressure detected during an eye exam;
    • who are farsighted or nearsighted;
    • who have experienced eye trauma or eye injury;
    • whose corneas are thin in the center;
    • or who have health problems such as diabetes, migraines, high blood pressure or poor blood

    Appropriate treatment for glaucoma depends on the specific type and severity of the disease. Medicated eye drops or laser treatments are the most common initial approach. These techniques work by lowering eye pressure to reduce the amount of fluid in the eye, and by increasing fluid outflow from the eye.

    “Glaucoma is typically symptomless to patients; however, permanent, irreversible vision loss can already be taking place,” said Andrew G. Iwach, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Early detection is paramount to avoiding blindness and managing this disease."

    For individuals age 65 or older who are concerned about their risk of eye disease, you may be eligible for a medical eye exam often at no out-of-pocket cost through the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeCare America® program. For those at increased risk for glaucoma, they may qualify for a glaucoma exam through EyeCare America. This public service program matches volunteer ophthalmologists with eligible patients in need of eye care across the United States. To see if you or a loved one qualifies, visit EyeCare America to determine your eligibility.      

    For more information on glaucoma or other eye conditions and diseases, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart® website.

    About the American Academy of Ophthalmology

    The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, we protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care. Our EyeSmart® program provides the public with the most trusted information about eye health. For more information, visit aao.org.

    About EyeCare America®

    Established in 1985, EyeCare America, the public service program of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, is committed to the preservation of sight, accomplishing its mission through public service and education. EyeCare America provides eye care services to medically underserved seniors and those at increased risk for eye disease. More than 90 percent of the care made available is provided at no out-of-pocket cost to the patients.  EyeCare America is co-sponsored by the Knights Templar Eye Foundation Inc., with additional support provided by Genentech and Regeneron. More information can be found at www.eyecareamerica.org.