Glaucoma is a silent disease that affects many people as they get older. While it affects people from all walks of life, it strikes African-American people at much higher rates than people of other ethnicities.What is glaucoma? Glaucoma is an optic nerve disease. The optic nerve is made up of many nerve fibers, and transmits images you see from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma damages those fibers, which can cause blind spots and vision loss if left untreated. It is often, but not always, caused by a buildup of pressure in the eye when fluid cannot drain properly. About 2.7 million people in America have glaucoma, but only half of them know that they do. There are often no symptoms in the early stages of glaucoma, so early detection is important. “Glaucoma is known as the ‘silent thief of sight’ due to the slow progressive nature of the disease and the presence of virtually no symptoms,” CEENTA Ophthalmologist Pedro Cervantes, MD, said. “This has a consequence of permanent and irreparable loss of vision. “Because of this it is important to have your eyes checked at least once a year.” How does glaucoma affect the African-American community?Glaucoma strikes earlier and progresses faster in African Americans, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation. African Americans are five times more likely to get glaucoma, and are six times likelier to go blind from the condition. After cataracts, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans. Unfortunately, the reason African Americans are affected by glaucoma at higher rates is unknown. That is why early detection and treatment are so important. There is no cure for glaucoma, so it would need lifelong management. That might include medicine or surgery, depending on the type and severity of the glaucoma. Treatment regimens are all uniquely tailored for individual patients, depending on the progression of the condition. The risk of glaucoma is 20 percent higher for African Americans with a family history of the condition, according to the Foundation. African Americans who are over the age of 40, extremely nearsighted, or have diabetes, hypertension, or a history of prolonged steroid use are at an even higher risk. If you or your loved ones have a history of glaucoma or any of these conditions, we urge you to make an appointment for an eye examination by calling 704-295-3000. It’s never too early to help protect your eyesight.This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician.