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January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Leading eye and health care organizations are joining this month to support National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an initiative geared toward educating the public on the major eye disease that affects more than 2.8 million Americans, according to Prevent Blindness America. To support the initiative, the Glaucoma Research Foundation, Prevent Blindness America and the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) of the National Eye Institute (NEI) are providing free resources such as fact sheets, risk factor identifiers, information on the disease and suggestions for raising awareness on their websites and social media profiles online.

Called the “sneak thief of sight” due to its lack of symptoms and permanent vision loss, glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the world. As much as 40 percent of vision can be lost without a person noticing. In the U.S. alone, approximately 120,000 are blind from glaucoma and 60 million people are affected by the disease worldwide, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation. The World Health Organization estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma.

According to the 2014 Prevent Blindness “Future of Vision: Forecasting the Prevalence and Costs of Vision Problems” report, the number of Americans afflicted by glaucoma is projected to jump by 50 percent by 2032, and there will be an estimated 92 percent increase, or 5.5 million cases, by 2050.

Medical treatment costs related to glaucoma and disorders of the optic nerve are also projected to skyrocket in the coming years, according to the report from Prevent Blindness. Today, more than $6 billion is spent annually on the disease. In 2032, the number is expected to hit $12 billion a year and by 2050, the annual medical treatment cost is estimated to be $17.3 billion.

As part of its efforts during National Glaucoma Awareness Month, Prevent Blindness will host the online “Glaucoma Learning Center” to help educate patients on the “sneak thief of sight” including risk factors, treatment options and public health resources.

Visit the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) of the National Eye Institute (NEI) website for glaucoma-related resources and materials to find new infographics and infocards, a dilated eye exam animation showing what a doctor sees when examining the eyes, a social media toolkit, videos, animations, drop-in articles and the Keep Vision in Your Future: Glaucoma Toolkit.

As a way to help combat the disease, the Glaucoma Research Foundation is urging people to share information about glaucoma and is highlighting several ways to raise awareness about the disease. The organization is urging people to talk to friends and family about glaucoma and not keep it a secret.