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Most Americans do not realize that glaucoma typically has no early warning signs or symptoms. Glaucoma affects 2.7 million people in the United States and is the second leading cause of blindness, yet understanding and awareness of the disease is low. The Illinois Optometric Association (IOA) stresses the importance of yearly, comprehensive eye exams to maintain quality eye health.

Often referred to as the "sneak thief of sight," glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that can damage the optic nerve and impair peripheral vision. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to complete loss of sight.

"Most people believe that glaucoma is a condition of aging. However, it can happen at any age," said Dr. Christine Allison, President of the IOA.  "Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are critical to slowing the progression of vision loss."

Americans are also largely unaware of the factors that put them at greater risk for developing glaucoma - only 13 percent of Americans know that a person's race increases their chances for developing the disease. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, glaucoma is six to eight times more common in African Americans than Caucasians. Additional factors for the development of glaucoma include a family history of the disease or a personal history of diabetes, hypothyroidism, or severe eye trauma. Individuals over age 60 are also at greater risk.

The most common treatment for glaucoma is prescription eye drops to lower pressure in the eyes. In some cases, laser treatment or eye surgery may also assist in reducing the pressure. In addition to yearly, comprehensive eye exams, the IOA joins the American Optometric Association in suggesting the following tips to help maintain overall eye health and clear, comfortable vision:

  • Eat green, leafy vegetables and foods rich in nutrients like beta carotene, vitamin C and zinc to protect eyes from disease.
  • Cut down on those bad habits such as smoking and consuming alcohol or excessive caffeine, which can all be harmful to the eyes. 
  • If you work in front of a computer, practice the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away to help avoid digital eye strain.
  • Wear sunglasses with at least 99% UV-A and UV-B protection year-round.

Contact the Illinois Optometric Association at 217-525-8012 for a member doctor near you, or go to our website at to "Find A Doctor" near you.

Members of the Illinois Optometric Association are committed to patient education and protecting the public's right to quality eye care. 

SOURCE Illinois Optometric Association

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.Jan. 13, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -

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