Tips to prevent glaucoma - the "sneak thief of sight"

Timely advice for National Glaucoma Awareness Month

SAN DIEGO, CALIF (January 13, 2015) - January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, and eye doctors across the country are spreading the word about this disease-the leading cause of preventable blindness. Currently, more than 2.7 million people in the U.S. over age 40 have glaucoma, and the numbers are getting higher and higher each year.

"Glaucoma can sneak up on people because there are no symptoms. And once vision is lost, it's gone forever," said Sandy T. Feldman, MD, a San Diego-based physician who is ranked among the nation's top ophthalmologists. "Experts estimate that one in two people who have glaucoma have no idea they do. That's why regular eye exams are so important."

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and gradually cause blindness - usually without any warning. Although the most common forms of glaucoma primarily affect those who are middle-aged and elderly, glaucoma affects people of all ages.

There is no cure for glaucoma-yet-but medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss.

"Diagnosing glaucoma isn't always easy. The optic nerve needs to be carefully evaluated with a dilated eye exam on a regular basis," Dr. Feldman explains. "Early detection is the key to stopping this disease in its tracks."

Dr. Feldman offers some additional information and advice:

  • Have regular eye exams. The loss of sight begins with peripheral (side) vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant damage has already been done. Your eyes should be tested:
    • Every 2-4 years before age 40
    • Every 1-3 years form age 40-54
    • Every 1-2 years from age 55-64
    • Every 6-12 months after age 65
    • Every 1-2 years after age 35 for anyone with high risk factors
  • Glaucoma is more prevalent among African-Americans - as much as 6 to 8 times more common than Caucasians. Among older Hispanics, the risk of glaucoma is almost as high as that of African-Americans. Asian populations also have significantly higher rates of glaucoma.
  • Family members of individuals with glaucoma have a much greater risk of developing the disease themselves.
  • Other high-risk groups include people over 60, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted.
  • Free screenings are available via Eye Care America, Lions Club International, Medicare, Vision USA, and other groups.
  • If you don't have access to an eye doctor, or have family members in other countries with limited access to an eye doctor, there is a free iPad app--Visual Field Easy--that can simulate one of the diagnostic tests used in a physician's office. The results of this mobile screening technology has been found to have the same accuracy as the results of the visual field test used by eye doctors 51-79% of the time.

"As the U.S. population gets older we'll see more and more cases of glaucoma, unless we can raise awareness of the disease and the importance of eye exams," says Dr. Feldman. "Start the New Year off right and make an appointment with your eye doctor. And if you do have glaucoma, don't keep it to yourself - be sure to let your family members know so they can get tested as well."

About Sandy T. Feldman, MD

Sandy T. Feldman, MD is the Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center - voted best LASIK center in San Diego by CityBeat Magazine in 2013 - and has successfully performed more than 20,000 refractive procedures. Her numerous awards include "Top Doc San Diego" and the Goldline Award, an honor granted to only 10 laser eye care providers in the U.S. each year, and she has been profiled in Forbes, Newsweek, and other respected publications. Dr. Feldman is a fellow of the prestigious American College of Ophthalmic Surgeons, as well as a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. For more information, please visit clearvieweyes.com.