January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, and it helps focus attention on eye and vision health in general. Most people would say that sight is the sense on which they rely most. People’s ability to see helps them know the world and gather information. Millions of people in the U.S. have some kind of visual impairment, ranging from problems that can be helped through the use of glasses to eye diseases causing blindness.
It’s important for African Americans in particular to protect their vision. They are at higher and unique risks for many serious eye and vision issues. Some of these issues include vision difficulties, cataracts, glaucoma and blindness. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s usually clear lens. It’s one of the most common causes of low vision and blindness. Research shows that African Americans are one-and-a-half times more at risk for getting a cataract and five times more likely to go blind as a result than the general population.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes damage to the eye’s optic nerve. It leads to decreased vision and total vision loss. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, blindness because of glaucoma is six more times likely in African Americans than in other populations. It also strikes earlier in life and progresses faster in African Americans. Researchers know that glaucoma can run in families. But they don’t know why African Americans have a higher rate of glaucoma and blindness as a result of it.