January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. As an elected member of the American Glaucoma Society, I want to share with you their 12 important facts that you should know about this sneaky disease, little by little, without you being aware, until it's too late.
More than 3 million Americans suffer from glaucoma. This number is expected to grow with the changing demographics of the U.S.
Glaucoma is the #2 cause of blindness in the U.S and #1 among Hispanics. African Americans are 15 times more likely to be visually impaired than whites. Glaucoma accounts for 9-12% of all cases of blindness in the U.S.
It is estimated that 50% of those suffering from glaucoma are unaware they have the disease and therefore remain undiagnosed and untreated.
Glaucoma is generally asymptomatic until late in its course when people realize their world is dark or dimming. However, the vision already lost cannot, with todays treatments, be restored.
With treatment, progression of the disease can be slowed, saving the patient’s remaining vision.
The mechanisms of glaucoma are mostly still unknown, resulting in limited therapy options.
Glaucoma specialists have specific training for treating glaucoma, both medically and surgically, and most often focus on the cases too difficult for the general ophthalmologist to control.
Glaucoma is a complicated and life-long disease, and access to sub-specialists is crucial if the vision is to be preserved for the lifetime of the patient.
Medical treatment costs for glaucoma totaled $5.8 billion in 20138, or approximately $2,170 per patient.
In order to prevent permanent vision loss, glaucoma needs to be diagnosed early and treated appropriately to prevent blindness.
It is imperative that patients everywhere have access to expert subspecialty care for advanced cases, difficult cases, and diagnostic dilemmas.
There has been a significant reduction in dollars allocated for glaucoma research. In fact, there is no ongoing large-scale clinical trial in glaucoma currently funded despite numerous questions and needs. There is so much about the disease that is unknown.