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Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that can damage the optic nerve of the eye, which carries visual information from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States. This potentially blinding eye disease currently affects 2.7 million people nationwide. Recent projections from the National Eye Institute (NEI) suggest this number of glaucoma cases will more than double by 2030 .
Glaucoma usually results in damage to the optic nerve from increased pressure in the eye, also known as intraocular pressure (IOP). There are four major types of glaucoma. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form. In this condition, fluid builds up in the front chamber of the eye, and the optic nerve is damaged by the resulting increase in pressure.
No early warning signs: sneak thief of sight
Glaucoma is usually painless, initially affects peripheral vision, and progresses slowly, which helps explain why half of all people with glaucoma are unaware they have it. As the disease progresses, a person may notice his or her side vision decreasing (see the series of photos above). Without adequate treatment, glaucoma eventually affects central vision and leads to blindness. Vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible.
Ninety percent (90%) of adults aged 18 and older report that they have heard of glaucoma. However, only 8% know that there are no early warning symptoms for the eye disease .
Glaucoma can be detected in its early stages through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. During this exam, drops are placed in your eyes to dilate, or widen, the pupils. This allows your eye care professional to examine the optic nerve for signs of glaucoma and other vision problems.
Although anyone can develop glaucoma, individuals at higher risk for developing glaucoma include African Americans age 40 and over; everyone over the age of 60, especially Mexican Americans; and people with a family history of glaucoma. People at risk of glaucoma should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam every one to two years.
Established in 1968, the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health was the first government organization solely dedicated to research on human visual diseases and disorders. The NEI recently announced that the prevalence of glaucoma is projected to reach 4.2 million by the year 2030, an increase of 58% over the current 2.7 million people in the U.S. over age 40 that have glaucoma . In light of this, the NEI released its first infographic highlighting glaucoma and some statistics in an easy at-a-glance format. Check it out below.
- Glaucoma on the Rise With a 58 Percent Increase by 2030. National Eye Institute. Accessed 2012 Jan 8.
- 2005 Survey of Public Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices (KAP) Related to Eye Health and Disease. National Eye Institute. Accessed 2012 Jan 7.