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Glaucoma a leading cause of blindness; condition often goes undetected

Jan 29, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The connection between glaucoma and diabetes is closer than most think. Commonly found in those with diabetes, glaucoma is a group of diseases that can affect the optic nerve of the eye and lead to vision loss. The optic nerve is the connection between the eye and brain that carries visual information.

Nearly 26 million people in the United States are diabetic, and more than 2 million adults aged 40 and over have glaucoma.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that American Indians are 2.3 times more likely to have diabetes compared to non-Hispanic whites. Generally, everyone should get an eye exam every year or two, but diabetics are advised to get an exam every year, especially if they have been diagnosed as diabetic or are pre-diabetic.

Because glaucoma gives no early warning signs, it is often detected in its late stages, said Dr. Suber Huang, a specialist in diabetic eye disease and the spokesman for the National Eye Institute. If found early enough, optometrists can administer laser surgery, treatment or follow-up care to prevent glaucoma from getting worse.

�If complications exist, successful treatments are available,� Huang said.

He said a person�s peripheral vision is affected first.

Dilated eye exams, a method of detecting glaucoma, are highly promoted, especially during January, the National Glaucoma Awareness Month. NEI said that 50 percent of those who have glaucoma don�t know they do.

Getting into a car accident or bumping into things more often than usual are some signs that a person may have glaucoma, also often referred to as the �sneak thief of sight.�

Optometrist B.J. Kister of Kister Eyecare in Riverton said people usually ignore these signs.

�By the time you are aware of it, it�s advanced,� he said.

Monitoring diabetes effectively and constantly, also can delay any vision complications. The Glaucoma Research Foundation, a national non-profit organization, states �as much as 40 percent of vision can be lost without a person noticing.�

Dr. Kister said glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness, and many new tools are available to study the eye.

Although there is no cure for glaucoma, catching it before it gets worse is the best way to prevent permanent vision loss.

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