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National Eye Institute

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 1, 2007


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Keep Vision in Your Future: Get an Eye Exam to Guard Against Glaucoma
Observe Healthy Vision Month in May

More than four million Americans have glaucoma, an eye disease that damages the optic nerve and destroys eyesight. However, nearly half of those with glaucoma are not even aware they have it. Are you one of them? You owe it to yourself to find out by getting a dilated eye exam. With its painless and gradual loss of vision, glaucoma comes with no early warning signs, but it can be detected during a comprehensive dilated eye exam. In an effort to encourage Americans to make vision a health priority, the National Eye Institute (NEI), one of the Federal government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH), observes Healthy Vision Month each May. This year’s observance highlights the importance for early detection of glaucoma.

Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NEI, said, “NEI-funded research has shown that treatment during the early stages of glaucoma can control the disease and prevent future vision loss and blindness. This is why NEI encourages people at higher risk for glaucoma to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam every one to two years.”

Those at higher risk for developing glaucoma include:
  • African Americans over age 40
  • Everyone over age 60, especially Mexican Americans
  • People with a family history of the disease.

With a dilated eye exam, an eye care professional can see inside the eye to detect signs of glaucoma, such as subtle changes to the optic nerve and other vision problems, before any symptoms appear. This allows the eye care professional to monitor patients and treat glaucoma as early as possible.

“A dilated eye examination is essential to protecting the vision of those at higher risk for glaucoma,” noted Anne L. Coleman, M.D., Ph.D., Frances and Ray Stark Professor of Ophthalmology at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute and chair of the glaucoma subcommittee for NEI’s National Eye Health Education Program. “If glaucoma is detected early, treatments such as medication, conventional surgery, or laser surgery can slow or stop vision loss. High pressure inside the eye, which may be associated with glaucoma, does not by itself mean that you have glaucoma. Only a dilated eye exam and evaluation of the optic nerve can tell you that.”

Healthy Vision Month is an annual observance designed to raise awareness of the importance of eye care for those at risk of developing eye and vision problems. This year, NEI is encouraging individuals to get an eye exam and to spread the word about glaucoma to family and friends by using NEI’s e-cards and brochures. For further information and links to help you find an eye care professional in your area, visit www.nei.nih.gov/glaucoma.

To keep vision in your future, know the facts and see an eye care professional for a dilated eye exam.

The National Eye Institute (NEI) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is the Federal government's lead agency for vision research that leads to sight-saving treatments and plays a key role in reducing visual impairment and blindness. For more information, visit the NEI Website at http://www.nei.nih.gov/.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.


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