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Glaucoma Awareness Month Observed in the District

Stacy M. Brown | 1/15/2014, 3 p.m.
Glaucoma silently steals eyesight from more than 2.7 million Americans each year and officials at the National Eye Institute in ...
Courtesy of the National Eye Health Education Program

“Thus the need for routine eye exams to establish early detections, diagnosis and treatment,” Spagnolo said.

The doctor and other health providers said baby boomers and seniors should note the risk of developing glaucoma increases for those over the age of 40 and it’s six times greater once a person reaches 60.

Officials said there’s now a perception that prolonged use of oral contraceptive birth control pills as well as the early onset of menopause may increase glaucoma risk in women.

Also, anyone suffering from sleep apnea should be carefully examined because that condition significantly increases the risk of glaucoma, Spagnolo said.

Glaucoma also comes with a steep price tag. Officials at the Chicago-based, Prevent Blindness Organization, said the economic burden of vision loss and eye disorders in America totals $5.8 billion annually, with a yearly per-person treatment cost of $2,170.

“The news is both disconcerting but very useful, especially for someone with a history of glaucoma in their family,” said Marvin White, a Northeast resident and computer technician.

“We know that it’s important for all of us [African Americans] to get checked on a regular basis when we reach into our mid-30s and 40s,” said White, 49.

“I’m sure that there are too many of us who don’t get checked, so this information and the fact that it is Glaucoma Awareness Month should help to remind people, especially stubborn people like myself, that we should get checked out and take this seriously.”

A comprehensive dilated eye exam is a painless procedure. Drops are placed in the eyes to dilate, or widen, the pupils. This allows an eye care professional to see inside the eye and examine the optic nerve for signs of glaucoma and other vision problems.

Some individuals may be eligible for a low-cost, comprehensive dilated eye exam. Call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit www.medicare.gov for more information. To find out about other possible financial assistance for eye care, visit www.nei.nih.gov/health/financialaid.asp.