Why is Glaucoma the Sneak Thief of Sight?

Singer/songwriter Ray Charles, Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, a total of 2.7-million Americans and more than 60-million people worldwide have something in common. They have glaucoma. January is Glaucoma Awareness Month.

Glaucoma is known as “the sneak thief of sight” because vision can be lost without prior symptoms. That was the case for Kirby Puckett, the Hall of Fame outfielder who played for the Minnesota Twins in the 1980s and 90s. Glaucoma ended his career when he woke up on March 28, 1996 without vision in his left eye.

According to the World Health Organization, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world behind cataracts. It’s a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve. The optic nerve is connected to the retina where it sends signals to the brain. The signals are then interpreted as images.

“The sneakiness of glaucoma can be quite alarming, but there are methods for early detection. There’s also treatment of glaucoma including preservation of sight, and there are specific characteristics of those who should see their ophthalmologist for glaucoma checks,” Lynn McMahan, M.D. said.  He is the founder of Southern Eye Center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

These are the characteristics Dr. McMahan referenced: if you are 40 or older, and…

–have a family history of glaucoma

–are African-American or Hispanic

–are nearsighted or farsighted

–have elevated eye pressure

–had an eye injury

–have a thin cornea

–have low blood pressure or have diabetes

–endure migraines or other conditions that affect blood flow

Glaucoma - SEC iPad patientWhy the emphasis on the African-American and Hispanic population? According to glaucoma.org, blindness from glaucoma is six to eight times more common in African-Americans than Caucasians. Glaucoma is also the leading cause of blindness among Hispanics especially in older age groups.

“If an eye exam reveals evidence of glaucoma, then maintaining sight is the objective through three proven methods of treatment,” Dr. Abumere Akinwale, Hattiesburg retina surgeon revealed. “These proven treatments include the use of eye drops, using lasers or performing surgery.”

At Southern Eye Center, the physicians are fellowship-trained eye surgeons. They have been treating Hattiesburg retina patients for several decades.

“There isn’t a cure for glaucoma. So, it is important to schedule regular eye exams especially for those who are considered high-risk,” Dr. Jaime Jiménez, Hattiesburg retina surgeon said. “The more we can educate our community about glaucoma, the more we can ease the fear associated with this and all eye diseases.”

For additional information on glaucoma, visit the Southern Eye Center’s glaucoma page or schedule an eye exam on our Contact page.