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Atrium Health Navicent Physicians Urge Individuals to Take Steps to Protect Their Sight

Health system seeks to raise awareness in observance of Glaucoma Awareness Month

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide and although about 3 million Americans have glaucoma, half don’t know they have it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This January, during Glaucoma Awareness Month, physicians at Atrium Health Navicent Ophthalmology Macon urge the community to educate themselves about resources available to maintain eye health and to treat glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness. There are two types of glaucoma, open angle and closed angle. Open angle occurs over time and is not noticed until the disease has progressed greatly. Closed angle happens suddenly and is associated with pain. Seek medical attention immediately to prevent permanent damage.

Glaucoma can have other rare forms. Congenital glaucoma develops before birth, for example, and the use of medications like corticosteroids can also lead to the development of glaucoma.

“Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of vision loss. It is a silent disease. Glaucoma may progress slowly affecting just peripheral or side vision initially and may not be noticed. There is no treatment to restore the vision lost to glaucoma. However, if diagnosed and treated early, we can slow the progression of the disease and minimize the vision loss,” said Dr. Monali Sakhalkar, an ophthalmologist with Atrium Health Navicent Ophthalmology Macon.

Anyone can get glaucoma, but certain groups are at higher risk. These groups include African Americans over age 40, all people over age 60, people with a family history of glaucoma, and people who have diabetes.

“Glaucoma does not affect everyone equally. African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asians are more prone to certain kinds of glaucoma. People with diabetes and family history are at high risk as well. Hence, it is important to get an eye examination to screen for diseases like glaucoma especially for population at risk,” said Dr. Sakhalkar.

Individuals can take action to help prevent vision loss:

· If you are in a high-risk group, such as those mentioned above, get a comprehensive dilated eye exam to catch glaucoma early and start treatment. Treatment options may include the use of eye drops to lower fluid pressure in the eyes or laser surgery.

· Even if you are not in a high-risk group, getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam by the age of 40 can help catch glaucoma and other eye diseases early.

· Open-angle glaucoma does not have symptoms and is hereditary, so talk to your family members about their vision health.

· Maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood pressure, being physically active, wearing protective eyewear in the sun, and avoiding smoking will help you avoid vision loss from glaucoma.

If you or a loved one have vision concerns, Atrium Health Navicent Ophthalmology Macon is here to help. Call 478-633-8033 to schedule an appointment.

About Atrium Health Navicent

Atrium Health Navicent is the leading provider of healthcare in central and south Georgia and is committed to its mission of elevating health and well-being through compassionate care. Atrium Health Navicent provides high-quality, personalized care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation’s leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health, allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care. Throughout its 125-year history in the community, Atrium Health Navicent has remained dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. It is also one of the leading teaching hospitals in the region, helping to ensure viability for rural health care for the next generation. For more information, please visit