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Keeping a watchful eye on glaucoma.


President George Bush's recent bout with glaucoma in his left eye is not all that rare; in fact, more than 2 million Americans now have what is this country's leading cause of blindness. Of that number, 900,000 suffer some permanent vision loss; about 70,000 are totally blind. Two of every 100 adults in this country have vision threatened by this disease, and that figure is expected to rise as the population gets older. Although there is no cure for glaucoma, it is a disease that can nevertheless be controlled, says the American Optometric Association (AOA), provided steps are taken to catch it in time.

There are four basic forms of glaucoma; the most common, primary open-angle glaucoma, is the most difficult to recognize in its early stages. The AOA urges people to get annual eye exams, particularly after age 60, when the disease is most likely to occur, and if there is a family history of glaucoma. Blacks are also heavily at risk, as are those with diabetes mellitus and/or any previous eye trauma or surgery. Glaucoma screenings usually measure only eye pressure, which is, after all, what causes the problem in the first place. Eye pressure, however, can change from hour to hour and from day to day; that is why a more comprehensive eye exam is necessary to spot other glaucoma signs. Various eye drops can control and minimize vision loss; persons with glaucoma also need to have their eyes monitored regularly. In some cases, oral medication, laser treatment or eye surgery may be necessary.

Those 65 and older who are U.S. citizens and no longer have access to an ophthalmologist can call a toll-free number (1-800-222-EYES) to be matched with the nearest practicioner who can provide free medical eye care for qualified individuals.
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Publication:Medical Update
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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