FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, and the Kentucky Optometric Association (KOA) is urging people take control of their eye health through early detection to help minimize the risk of developing glaucoma.
The disease leads to progressive damage to the optic nerve and a loss of nerve tissue, which ultimately results in loss of vision.
Currently, 2.7 million people in the United States over age 40 have glaucoma. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States, yet understanding and awareness of the disease is still relatively low.
Often referred to as the “sneak thief of sight,” glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that can damage the optic nerve and impair peripheral vision. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to complete loss of sight. Although the disease does not have a cure and is not preventable, it is treatable and can be detected in a comprehensive eye exam.
“A common misconception is that glaucoma only affects older adults when, in reality, it can happen at any age,” said Dr. Kris Kerestan Garbig, an optometrist in Wilder. “In fact, it’s most commonly detected in people in their 40s. The key is to identify and diagnose the disease early in order to promptly treat and slow the progression of vision loss.”
Americans are also largely unaware of the factors that put them at greater risk for developing glaucoma. Only 13 percent of Americans know that a person’s race increases their chances for developing the disease.
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, glaucoma is six to eight times more common in African-Americans than Caucasians. Additional factors that put someone at greater risk for glaucoma include those who have a family history of glaucoma, diabetes or hypothyroidism; are over age 60; or have had severe eye trauma.
Treatment for glaucoma includes prescription eye drops and medication to lower pressure in the eyes. In some cases, laser treatment or surgery may be effective in reducing pressure.
In addition to yearly, comprehensive eye exams, the Kentucky Optometric Association suggests the following tips to help maintain overall eye health and clear, comfortable vision:
- Eat green, leafy vegetables and foods rich in nutrients like Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Omega 3, Vitamins C and E, and Zinc to protect eyes from disease.
- Cut down on bad habits such as smoking and consuming alcohol or excessive caffeine, which can all be harmful to the eyes.
- Practice the 20/20/20 rule if you work in front of a computer: every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away to help avoid digital eye strain.
- Wear sunglasses with UV-A and UV-B protection year-round.
To find a doctor of optometry in your area, visit www.kyeyes.org.