January is Prevent Blindness America National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Nationwide, eye care specialists like Charles Bahn, MD want to increase glaucoma awareness during this time.
By: Kevin Hewston
Glaucoma is a debilitating eye disease that can affect anyone, striking at any age. The condition, which refers to a series of optic neuropathies damaging the optic nerve, affects over 60 million people worldwide. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, around 2.2 million people of that group are in the United States. About half of the people with glaucoma don’t know they have the disease until it’s too late. There are no warning signs or symptoms initially, making this “silent thief of sight” a leading cause of irreversible blindness.
Because glaucoma has no initial warning signs or symptoms, everyone should have regular screenings for early detection. The earlier doctors notice glaucoma, the more effectively they can treat it before it results in permanent vision loss. Dr. Da-Thuy Van of the Eye Clinic of Texas says contraction risk directly correlates with age after you reach 40 years old. After age 40, “…chances of developing glaucoma increase considerably.” Thus, a person over 60 years old is six times more likely to get glaucoma–even without a family medical history.
However, having an associated family medical history increases glaucoma risk by as much as
four to nine times. And your likelihood of contracting the disease is compounded additionally by a circulatory dysfunction such as diabetes. Another risk factor is race. African-Americans, says Dr. Bernard Milstein, are at six to eight times greater risk than the rest of the population of developing glaucoma. For them, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness above all other eye conditions. Likewise, Hispanics over age 60 experience greater risk, and Asians are more likely to get Narrow-Angle Glaucoma.
Treatments range from non-invasive to invasive, including eye drops and laser surgeries. Patients desire laser surgeries lately as a more permanent option, said Dr. Allan Fradkin. Dr. Fradkin also notes that doctors are looking into tiny implantable stents as a safe and effective way to target glaucoma across the disease spectrum.
Dr. Charles Bahn, MD offers treatment options like these. He notes that these treatments only stop the spread of glaucoma or slow vision loss. But early detection is key to the availability of treatment options. To that end, Dr. Charles Bahn, MD recommends screenings every three years after the age of 40.
About: An award-winning eye care practitioner of over 30 years, Dr. Charles Bahn, MD specializes in many forms of vision care. His private practice in Bethesda, Md. serves the Washington, DC metropolitan area.