January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is a primary cause of vision loss and blindness that impacts around 2.7 million people in the United States. Although glaucoma can often be prevented, the reason for its prevalence is that it rarely presents symptoms. In fact, that is why it is known as the “Sneak thief of sight” since it can take away as much as 40% of a person’s sight without them even noticing.
Glaucoma is most common among adults over the age of sixty, in people who have a family history of the disease, and Black people over the age of forty. Other risk factors include diabetes, severe nearsightedness, previous eye injuries, use of steroids and a history of severe anemia.
Even though glaucoma often doesn’t present symptoms in the early stage, there are some warning signs that can be an indication, such as:
Squinting or blinking from new sensitivity to light
Dry eyes with itching and burning
Red rimmed, swollen or crusty eye lids
Change in the color of the iris
Recurrent pain around the eyes
More severe signs are:
If detected early, before noticeable vision loss occurs, glaucoma can usually be controlled and severe vision loss can often be prevented. Vision that is lost from glaucoma cannot be restored. So it’s important to watch for any indication of the symptoms listed, and if you see even one, a visit to the eye doctor could help prevent any serious vision problems.