Next Thursday, March 12, is the second annual World Glaucoma Day. Because people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing glaucoma (about twice the risk of those without diabetes), this may be a good time to brush up your knowledge of steps you can take to prevent and treat this sight-robbing condition. Getting screened for glaucoma is crucial, because it has no early warning signs.
Glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve in the eye and can lead to vision loss if not treated. There are several different types of glaucoma — you can read about the variations in our Diabetes Definition of glaucoma. Here are some quick facts about the condition, courtesy of the National Eye Institute (NEI), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
- Glaucoma affects almost 70 million people worldwide.
- 2.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with glaucoma, and an additional 2 million are undiagnosed.
- Advancing age is a risk factor for glaucoma, as is being a member of certain ethnic groups. People over the age of 60 — especially Hispanic Americans — are at higher risk for glaucoma, and African-Americans over the age of 40 are at increased risk.
- Glaucoma has no early symptoms; however, with prompt diagnosis and treatment, its progression can be slowed or stopped and vision preserved.
You may be thinking, “If glaucoma has no early warning signs, how can I take steps to prevent or treat it?” The most important thing you can do is to have regular dilated eye exams, since eye-care professionals can see early warning signs of glaucoma and other eye disorders before symptoms become apparent. People with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam performed once a year by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
You can read about ongoing research into the genetics of glaucoma and potential future treatments in this news release from the NEI. You can also visit their Web page www.nei.nih.gov/glaucoma to learn more about glaucoma, including information about currently available tests and treatment options. Finally, visit the Eyes & Vision section of this Web site for articles on all aspects of eye health and diabetes.