Date Published: 4 January 2012
Glaucoma Awareness Month, January 2012
Glaucoma is a major cause of vision loss in the United States where it is believed to affect approx. 2.2 million Americans. During Glaucoma Awareness Month, the National Eye Institute (NEI) will be highlighting advances in recent research, drawing attention to its education and awareness activities and reminding Americans that early detection and treatment is the best way to prevent vision loss. (The National Eye Institute (NEI) advises all Americans at risk of glaucoma to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam every one to two years.)
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damages the optic nerve, the bundle of nerve cells that relay visual information from the eye to the brain. In the most common form of glaucoma, called primary open angle glaucoma, nerve damage results from an increase in intraocular pressure, i.e. the pressure inside the eye. Increased intraocular pressure occurs when the fluid that circulates in and out of the front part of the eye drains too slowly.
Glaucoma is usually painless, initially affects peripheral vision, and progresses slowly, which helps explain whyan estimated half of all people with glaucoma are unaware they have it. Without adequate treatment, glaucoma eventually affects central vision and progresses to blindness. According to current medical opinion as stated by NIH, vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible.
Although glaucoma is a complex disease and progress toward preventing or reversing it has been slow, the multipronged approach to glaucoma research pursued by the (American) National Eye Institute (NEI) is making progressing. Epidemiological studies funded by NEI have identified populations at higher risk of glaucoma, including African-Americans ages 40 and older; everyone age 60 and older, especially Mexican Americans; and people with a family history of the disease.
The NEI-led Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study (OHTS) and the Advanced Glaucoma Intervention Study (AGIS) helped refine strategies for reducing glaucoma-related vision loss. The OHTS established that medicated eye drops to reduce intraocular pressure are effective at delaying or preventing disease among people identified to be at high risk of glaucoma. The AGIS found that specific traits such as race/ethnicity can help predict which type of surgical treatment is more likely to achieve better visual results. Continuing research is using various advanced techniques such as confocal laser scanning ophthalmoscopy and optical coherence tomography, which are used to image the retina and optic nerve. Studies such as the Diagnostic Innovations in Glaucoma Study and the Advanced Imaging for Glaucoma Study are using these techniques to develop better tools to diagnose and manage glaucoma. Glaucoma research concerns, among other issues, development of neuroprotective treatment strategies.
The NEI National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) provides a variety of educational resources, in English and Spanish, as part of its broad eye health outreach effort. New on 2012 is the "Keep Vision in Your Future" Glaucoma Toolkit, designed for health professionals and community organizations to raise awareness about the importance of comprehensive dilated eye exams for early detection of glaucoma.
According to an NEI survey, more than 90% of Americans have heard of glaucoma. However, only 8% are aware glaucoma has no early symptoms.
During Glaucoma Awareness Month, NEHEP is targeting people at higher risk of glaucoma by working with media outlets to disseminate glaucoma information
For more information about glaucoma, comprehensive dilated eye exams, and financial assistance available for eye care, visit www.nei.nih.gov/glaucoma.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov - statement understood to be correct as of publication date.
Institutes of Health (NIH), USA.