The prevalence of glaucoma in the United States is 22 percent higher than it was 10 years ago, a new report reveals.
Researchers from Prevent Blindness America and the U.S. National Eye Institute reported that more than 2.7 million Americans aged 40 and older are affected by this eye disease, which can damage the optic nerve and gradually lead to blindness.
A number of demographic and health trends have increased the number of Americans who fall into the major risk groups for glaucoma.
These trends include:
• The aging of America
• Growth in the black and Hispanic populations
• The ongoing obesity epidemic
There has been a steady rise in glaucoma among the African-American community. Currently, more than 520,000 African-Americans have glaucoma, and the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health projects this number will rise to approximately 865,000 cases by 2030, a 66 percent increase. African-Americans have the highest prevalence of glaucoma among minority groups. Last year, NEI invested $71 million on a wide range of studies to understand causes and potential areas of treatment for glaucoma.
“Glaucoma affects more than 2.7 million people nationwide and is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in African-Americans. In fact, African-Americans are at risk of developing it at an earlier age than other racial and ethnic groups,” said Dr. James Tsai, chair of the Glaucoma Subcommittee for the NEI National Eye Health Education Program. “Primary open-angle glaucoma often has no early symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, a person may eventually notice his or her side vision decreasing. If the disease is left untreated, the field of vision narrows and vision loss may result.”
“Studies show that at least half of all persons with glaucoma don’t know they have this potentially blinding eye disease,” said NEI director Dr. Paul Sieving. “The good news is that glaucoma can be detected in its early stages through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. NEI encourages all people at higher risk of glaucoma – African Americans age 40 or older; everyone age 60, especially Mexican Americans; and those with a family history – to get a dilated eye exam every one to two years, because early detection and timely treatment may save your sight.”