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January Is Glaucoma Awareness Month

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month.† We do a good job reminding women to have an annual gynecologist's visit and to get their mammograms, but when was the last time you saw an eye doctor?† Nearly three million people have glaucoma, but half do not realize it because there are often no warning symptoms.† What can happen as a result?† Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the U.S. and the leading cause of preventable blindness:† approximately 120,000 Americans are blind from glaucoma, accounting for 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness in the US† Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African-Americans; it is 6 to 8 times more common in African-Americans than Caucasians. The most common form, Open Angle Glaucoma, accounts for 19% of all blindness among African-Americans compared to 6% in Caucasians.

African-Americans ages 45-65 are 14 to 17 times more likely to go blind from glaucoma than Caucasians with glaucoma in the same age group.† Other high-risk groups include: all people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted.

The good news is that glaucoma is both diagnosable and treatable.† Unfortunately, too many people with glaucoma don't know how or where to get evaluated, especially if they don't have health insurance or access to a regular ophthalmologist.† Today, it is estimated that 44 million Americans--15% of the US population--lack health insurance. †As a result, a growing number of Americans are not receiving eye exams that might save them from diseases that can lead to blindness, like glaucoma.† EyeCare America, the public service foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, encourages people to take advantage of its year-round, national Glaucoma EyeCare Program.† This program offers free glaucoma eye exams and care for those at increased risk of glaucoma without insurance.† To see if you, a loved one or a friend, is eligible to receive a referral for an eye exam and care, call 1-800-391-EYES (3937), 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year.† All eligible callers receive a referral to one EyeCare America's 7,500 volunteer ophthalmologists.†More information can be found at www.eyecareamerica.org

Created: 1/17/2005  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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