Early Warning Sign for Glaucoma

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Just in time for that observance, scientists at the Centre for Vision Research of the University of Sydneyshowed that changes in blood vessels in the retina of your eye can be an early warning sign that you're at increased risk for this eye disease, which is age-related and limits peripheral vision. Because glaucoma does not have symptoms it has been dubbed "the sneak thief of sight." Yet early detection can preserve vision.

The study was published in the journal Ophthalmology. A release from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which published the journal, reports that open-angle glaucoma affects nearly three million people in the U.S and 60 million worldwide. Vision loss occurs when glaucoma damages the optic nerve, the part of the eye that transmits images from the retina to the brain.

Patients in the studywho were diagnosed with glaucoma at the 10-year mark were older, had had higher blood pressure or higher intraocular pressure at the study's baseline, and were more likely to be women. Lead author Paul Mitchell, M.D., PhDsaid, "Our results suggest that a computer-based imaging tool designed to detect narrowing of the retinal artery caliber, or diameter, could effectively identify those who are most at risk for open-angle glaucoma. Such a tool would also need to account for blood pressure and other factors that can contribute to blood vessel changes. Early detection would allow ophthalmologists to treat patients before optic nerve damage occurs and would give us the best chance of protecting their vision."

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that everyone should have a complete eye exam by an ophthalmologist at age 40 and then have follow-up exams on a schedule advised by their doctors. For more information on glaucoma and other eye disorders, visit http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/

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