December 23, 2008

Glaucoma can strike at any age

The sneak thief of sight -- glaucoma -- often associated with the elderly, can strike at any age, a U.S. non-profit group warns.

Officials at the Chicago-based Prevent Blindness America say glaucoma causes loss of sight by slowly damaging the optic nerve, which results in loss of peripheral vision. If not treated central vision can be lost as well.

There were no warning signs. I had very close to 20/20 vision and never had any pain, A.J. DeGeorge, a 27-year-old being treated for the disease at the Midwest Glaucoma Center in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, says in a statement. But, when the doctors checked the pressures in my eyes, they were unbelievably high and my optic nerves had shown signs of damage.

DeGeorge was treated with medications, but later surgery was needed in the right eye to lower the eye pressure and halt further damage.

Although having glaucoma at such a young age is rare, I think A.J.'s story demonstrates the need for everyone, including those young and more mature, to receive an eye exam, DeGeorge's glaucoma specialist, Dr. Olivier says.

There is no cure for glaucoma, but with early treatment, we can lessen the risk of severe vision loss.