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IU Medical Students to Provide Glaucoma Screenings During World Glaucoma Week

A joint initiative of the World Glaucoma Association and the World Glaucoma Patient Association, World Glaucoma Week is designed to educate the public on the signs and symptoms of the disease. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness among adults, particularly African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans, who are more susceptible to the disease.

Often called the sneak thief of sight, an individual can develop glaucoma and lose sight without knowing about the condition. Vision loss is gradual and often unknown until it reaches an advanced stage, says Louis B. Cantor, M.D., chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the IU Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute and a leading glaucoma researcher.

“This disease is progressive and causes irreversible vision loss,” Dr. Cantor said. “About 50 percent of the people who have this disease are unaware of the signs and symptoms, and many don’t seek vision care until it’s too late. Once sight has been lost to this disease, it cannot be regained.”

Dr. Cantor said IU medical students who volunteer with the Ophthalmology Student Interest Group will provide free glaucoma screenings on Saturday, March 13, 2010 at the IU Student Outreach Clinic at Neighborhood Fellowship Church, 3102 E. 10th St. Staffed by students, the clinic provides free urgent care to the needy. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

“We hope to alert individuals who are at risk for this disease, or who are in the early stages of the disease, to their condition so they may receive proper care,” said Dr. Cantor. Marion County residents who do not have health insurance or are not eligible for a state or federally funded program will be eligible to enroll in the Wishard Advantage program, which will enable them to be seen at Wishard’s ophthalmology clinic.

Risk factors for glaucoma include:

  • Age
  • Being African-American or Hispanic
  • Having a family history of glaucoma
  • Having elevated eye pressure
  • Being farsighted or nearsighted
  • Having previous eye injuries
  • Having other health problems such as diabetes, low blood pressure or migraine headaches.

Most people begin to experience changes in their vision as they turn 40, Cantor said. Many people will require reading glasses at that time. By age 65, one in three Americans will experience some form of vision-impairing eye disease.

Glaucoma develops when pressure builds in the eye and causes damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the main cable carrying the messages from the eye to the brain. Damage to the optic nerve can cause blind spots to develop. Those spots often go unnoticed until they increase in size, impairing sight. Blindness can result if the disease is not treated.

“By the time an individual notices diminished sight, the disease is often in advanced stages,” Dr. Cantor said. Eye drops, laser treatment or surgery can halt the progression of the disease but cannot restore lost vision.

That’s why early detection is so important, Cantor said. “Vision loss can be prevented if the disease is detected and treated in the early stages.”

Glaucoma Screenings by Ophthalmology Student Interest Group
10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday, March 13, 2010
IU Student Outreach Clinic
Neighborhood Fellowship Church, 3102 E. 10th St.