A Healthy New Year's Resolution for Your Eyes

The year 2014

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, 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 eye exam 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 visit www.eyecareamerica.org. All eligible patients receive a referral to one of EyeCare America's 7,000 volunteer ophthalmologists who provide an examination for glaucoma. Uninsured patients receive this care at no charge.

"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 EyeCare America program is designed for people who:

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

More information can be found at www.eyecareamerica.org.

Page updated: Dec. 18, 2013

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