Prevent Blindness Texas Joins in January’s National Glaucoma Awareness Month to Educate Public on Second Leading Cause of Blindness

HOUSTON (December 21, 2012) More than 2.7 million Americans age 40 and older have open-angleglaucoma, a 22 percent increase from just 10 years ago, according to the 2012 Vision Problems in the U.S.report from Prevent Blindness America and the National Eye Institute.  Along with the troubling increase in the number of cases, is the major concern that half of those people who have glaucoma are not aware of it.

To address this major public health concern, Prevent Blindness Texas is joining with other leading vision and eye health groups to declare January as National Glaucoma Awareness Month.  Prevent Blindness Texas provides free resourcesto educate the public on glaucoma through “The Glaucoma Learning Center,” a website at www.preventblindess.org/glaucoma, and printed materials, available by request, by calling 1-888-98-SIGHT.

Because symptoms develop so gradually that the patient may not notice them right away, glaucoma is often referred to as the “sneak thief of sight.” Glaucoma is actually a group of eye conditions that can damage the optic nerve. Symptoms for open-angle glaucoma may include developing blind spots in the peripheral vision.  If left untreated, over time, glaucoma may also damage central vision. 

Risk factors for glaucoma include age, family history, nearsightedness, eye injury or surgery and the use of steroid medications. Race is another major risk factor as, according to the National Eye Institute, glaucoma is five times more likely to occur in blacks than in whites, and blacks are four times more likely to go blind from it.  Hispanics are more likely to develop glaucoma after age 60 than any other group.

Once vision is lost to glaucoma, it cannot be restored. However, promising research from the University of Michigan Medical School, led by Joshua Stein, MD, MS, found that the risk for glaucoma was reduced by eight percent in hyperlipidemia patients who took statins continuously for two years, compared with patients who did not take statins. The study entitled “The Relationship Between Statin Use and Open-Angle Glaucoma” found that statin use may be most effective in the early stages of the disease or as a preventive measure.  The findings offer encouragement for future research on the effects of statins on a broader group of people.

“As we begin 2013, we hope that everyone’s New Year’s resolution will be to make their eye health a priority and schedule an eye exam,” said Debbie Goss, President and CEO of Prevent Blindness Texas. “Through early detection and treatment, we can help lessen the effects of glaucoma and other eye diseases on vision.”

For more information on glaucoma or Medicare benefits for glaucoma services, please call Prevent Blindness Texasat 1-888-98-SIGHT or visit preventblindnesstexas.org.

About Prevent Blindness Texas   

Founded in 1956, Prevent Blindness is the state’s leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight.  Focused on promoting a continuum of vision care, Prevent Blindness Texas touches the lives of thousands of people each year through public and professional education, advocacy, community and patient service programs and research.  These services are made possible through the generous support of the Texas public.  Through a network of regional offices and volunteers, we are committed to eliminating preventable blindness in Texas.  For more information, or to make a contribution to the sight-saving fund, call 1-888-98-SIGHT or visit us online at www.preventblindnesstexas.org, www.facebook.com/preventblindnesstexas, www.twitter.com/PBTexas or preventblindnesstexas.blogspot.com/.

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Download the Glaucoma Awareness Press Release.