Did you know 2.7 million Americans have glaucoma, and only half of them know it? The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase.

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is called "the sneak thief of sight" since there are no symptoms in its early stages, but it can be detected before noticeable vision loss occurs, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation. Early detection and treatment can help save sight.

WesternU encourages people to visit its Eye Care Center, 795 E. Second St., Pomona, Calif. 91766, for a comprehensive dilated eye exam. You can also visit the website, http://www.westernupcc.com/eye.html, for Eye Care Center information.

“Glaucoma is a painless, slowly progressive eye disease that damages the optic nerve, the wire that connects the eye with the brain,” said Robert Gordon, OD, FAAO, DPNAP, WesternU College of Optometry Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs. “Only about one-half of the people afflicted with glaucoma are aware they have the disease.”

Gordon said anyone can develop glaucoma, though those at greatest risk are African Americans, Hispanics, and those who have a family member with the disease.

“Loss of vision from glaucoma can be prevented, or at least moderated, through early detection of the disease and early treatment,” he said. “Everyone over age 40 should have an initial comprehensive eye examination performed and have testing repeated on a regularly scheduled basis as recommended by your eye doctor.”

For more information about glaucoma, please visit http://www.glaucoma.org/ or http://www.nei.nih.gov/glaucoma/.