January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, and while more than 2.7 million people in the United States and over 60 million people worldwide suffer from this degenerative eye disease(1), few people out there know much about it. Glaucoma is the result of damage to the optic nerve and loss of the field of vision, often clinically characterized by pressure build-up of fluid in the eye. While there is no cure for glaucoma, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss.
The disease is often referred to as the ‘silent thief of vision’ as it is often asymptomatic – a person may lose as much as 40% of vision without noticing(1). Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness. In the US, about 120,000 people are blind due to glaucoma(1), accounting for over 10% of all cases of blindness(1). Worldwide, the WHO estimates 4.5 million people are blind due to the disease.
The toll glaucoma has on one’s health is quite clear, but its economic impact is equally astounding. The cost to the US government is estimated to be over $1.5 billion annually(1). Factor in projected productivity losses, and that number jumps up to $2.86 billion annually(1) in the United States alone.
The best preventative measures are for people to have their eyesight checked more often, ideally biannually, and to bring the condition to the attention of the public.
We urge health and industry advocates as well as policy makers to support investments in vision loss prevention. Furthermore, we ask experts in the vision industry to advocate for healthy vision by sharing this message with their network.
President of the Vision Impact Institute
(1) For more information on risk factors, types of glaucoma, treatments, and developments in research visit the Glaucoma Research Foundation’s website at www.glaucoma.org