Prevent Blindness Through Glaucoma Awareness… “The Sneak Thief Of Sight”

jason-ahee-newIssue 6.11

This past month was National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to spread the word about this sight-stealing disease. Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it’s permanent. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization, and is the leading cause of preventable blindness. Over 4 million Americans, and nearly 70 million people worldwide, have glaucoma. Experts estimate that half of them don’t know they have it. Combined with our aging population, we can see an epidemic of blindness looming if we don’t raise awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations to preserve vision.

What is Glaucoma?  Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning. Although the most common forms primarily affect the middle-aged and the elderly, glaucoma can affect people of all ages.  Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve. This nerve is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain.

Jason A Ahee, MD, of the Dixie Ophthalmic Specialists at Zion Eye Institute, is the only glaucoma surgeon in southern Utah.  According to Dr. Ahee, there are two main types of glaucoma: primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), and angle-closure glaucoma. These are marked by an increase of intraocular pressure (IOP), or pressure inside the eye. Another type occurs when optic nerve damage happens despite a normal IOP, this is called normal tension glaucoma. Secondary glaucoma refers to any case in which another disease or injury causes or contributes to increased eye pressure, resulting in optic nerve damage and vision loss.

In the most common form, there are virtually no symptoms. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost. “The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination,” said Dr Ahee. “Then, if you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately.”

Are you at risk for glaucoma?  Those at higher risk include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent. Other high-risk groups include: people over age 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted. Additional risk factors are: previous eye injuries, and prolonged use of steroid medications.  Regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma, and may help to prevent unnecessary vision loss.

In the United States, approximately 120,000 are blind from glaucoma, accounting for 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness. Here are three ways you can help raise awareness:

·                     Talk to friends and family about glaucoma. If you have glaucoma, don’t keep it a secret. Let your family members know so they can be tested.

·                     Refer a friend to our web site,, or call our office to schedule an appointment 877-841-2020.

·                     Request to have a free educational brochure sent to you or a friend.

There is no cure for glaucoma. However, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease.

Jason Ahee, M.D. is a Cataract, Refractive & Glaucoma Surgeon at Dixie Ophthalmic Specialists, 1791 E. 280 N., St. George and can be reached at 435-656-2020.

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