January Is National Glaucoma Awareness Month

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NEW YORK—Leading eye and health care organizations are joining this month to support National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an initiative geared toward educating the public on the major eye disease that affects more than 2.7 million American age 40 and over. To support the initiative, the Glaucoma Research Foundation, the National Eye Institute, Prevent Blindness America and others are providing free resources such as fact sheets, risk factor identifiers, information on the disease and suggestions for raising awareness on their websites and social media profiles online.

Called the “sneak thief of sight” due to its lack of symptoms and permanent vision loss, glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the world with approximately 120,000 blind from glaucoma in the U.S. alone and 60 million people affected by the disease worldwide, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation. The World Health Organization estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma.

To prevent this loss, and in support of the January initiative, the Glaucoma Research Foundation is offering suggestions to the public such as talking to friends and family about glaucoma, referring friends to their website at www.glaucoma.org, requesting a free education booklet to be sent in the mail and connecting with the Foundation on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates on glaucoma research, treatments and news.

The National Eye Institute (NEI), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has released a news brief calling out “Look to the Future: Get an Eye Exam to Save Your Vision from Glaucoma,” addressing the importance of a comprehensive eye exam to screen for the disease and its risk factors. The Institute also emphasized that anyone can develop glaucoma, but those at higher risk include African Americans over age 40, anyone over age 60, with particular occurrence in Mexican Americans, and people with a family history of the disease.

"NEI-funded research has shown that treatment during the early stages of glaucoma can control the disease and prevent future vision loss and blindness. This is why NEI encourages people at higher risk for glaucoma to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam every one to two years," said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Eye Institute.

Prevent Blindness America is providing free resources online and by mail through its “Glaucoma Learning Center,” which highlights glaucoma risk factors, along with free fact sheets answering common questions about health insurance, Medicare coverage for glaucoma, the Affordable Care Act and eyecare.

The association is also pointing out the importance of glaucoma screenings with its 2013 report, “Cost of Vision Problems: The Economic Burden of Vision Loss and Eye Disorders in the United States,” which states that the direct costs related to glaucoma reach $5.8 billion annually in the U.S. with an annual per-person treatment cost of $2,170. As stated by PBA, “with the population of older Americans continuing to increase, these numbers will only grow.”

“Although there is currently no cure for glaucoma, the damaging effects can be reduced if diagnosed and treated early,” said Hugh R. Parry, PBA president and CEO. “Our vision should always be a top priority, and the New Year is a great time for a resolution to make sure our eyes are healthy with a dilated eye exam.”