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January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

A Healthy New Year’s Resolution for Your Eyes

EyeCare America and 7,000 Ophthalmologists Providing FREE Eye Exams in Honor of Glaucoma Awareness Month in January

December 8, 2008 – San Francisco, CA – Each year as the New Year approaches, people around the world resolve to make changes that will result in longer, happier and healthier lives. Often people are determined to lose weight while others are committed to kicking unhealthy habits such as smoking.  This year EyeCare America would like to add “Get a Glaucoma Eye Exam!” to the list of healthy resolutions and Glaucoma Awareness Month in January is the perfect time to do it.

In honor of Glaucoma Awareness Month taking place in January 2009, EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, encourages those without insurance to take advantage of its national Glaucoma EyeCare Program. The program offers free glaucoma eye exams for those who are uninsured and considered to be at increased risk for glaucoma. To find out if they are eligible to receive a referral for an eye exam, those interested should call 1-800-391-EYES (3937). The help line is open 24 hours a day, every day, year round.  All eligible callers receive a referral to one of EyeCare America’s 7,000 volunteer ophthalmologists who provide an examination for glaucoma and initiate treatment if necessary.  Uninsured patients receive this care at no charge.

Additionally, EyeCare America is providing VHS tapes free of charge to those interested of the “Glaucoma and You” video, featuring baseball legend Willie Mays and actress Diahann Carroll, and DVDs of the “Glaucoma: A Guide for Latinos” video (available in English and Spanish), featuring boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya. These 30-minute educational videos have been developed to increase glaucoma awareness, diagnosis and treatment among African-Americans and Latinos.  Those interested in receiving either of the videos may call 1-877-887-6327.  The tapes will be available while supplies last.

“Glaucoma normally progresses so slowly that there are usually no warning signs before permanent damage has occurred to the eye,” said EyeCare America volunteer ophthalmologist, M. Roy Wilson, MD. “It is vital to educate the American public about the importance of a yearly eye exam to increase early detection and treatment of glaucoma to help prevent vision loss.”

What is Glaucoma?

In a healthy eye, clear fluid is constantly being made behind the iris and leaving the eye through a microscopic, drainage canal in the front of the eye.  If this drainage channel becomes blocked, the pressure inside the eye goes up and often causes glaucoma damage to the optic nerve.  This is the nerve that connects the eye to the brain so damage to it causes loss of vision.

Who is at risk?

While the causes of glaucoma are not completely known, we do know that risk factors for its development include a family history of glaucoma, race and older age. Glaucoma may affect people of any age from newborns to the elderly but is more common in adults as they approach their senior years. African-Americans, Hispanics and people with diabetes are also at increased risk of developing the disease.

The Glaucoma EyeCare Program promotes early detection and treatment of glaucoma.  It raises awareness of glaucoma risk factors, provides free glaucoma educational materials and facilitates access to glaucoma eye exams.

The Glaucoma EyeCare Program is designed for people who:

  • Are U.S. citizens or legal residents
  • Have not had an eye exam in 12 months or more
  • Are deemed to be at increased risk for glaucoma (as determined by family history, race, age)

People may call the toll-free help line at 1-800-391-EYES (3937) anytime, for themselves and/or family members and friends, to see if they qualify for a glaucoma eye exam or to request free eye care information.

About EyeCare America
Established in 1985, EyeCare America, the public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, is committed to the preservation of sight, accomplishing its mission through public service and education.  EyeCare America provides eye care services to the medically underserved and for those at increased risk for eye disease through its corps of 7,000 volunteer ophthalmologists dedicated to serving their communities.  More than 90 percent of the care made available is provided at no out-of-pocket cost to the patients.  EyeCare America includes programs for seniors, glaucoma, diabetes, macular degeneration and children, and is the largest program of its kind in American medicine.  Since its inception, EyeCare America has helped more than 1 million people.  EyeCare America is
a non-profit program whose success is made possible through charitable contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations.  More information can be found at: www.eyecareamerica.org

Media Contact: Allison Neves, Communications Director – 415.561.8518, aneves@aao.org

NOTE TO EDITORS AND PRODUCERS: High-resolution images and b-roll as well as interviews with EyeCare America spokespeople available upon request.

 

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