Each May, the National Eye Institute and the National Eye Health Education Program Partnership sponsor Healthy Vision Month (HVM), a national eye health observance promoting the vision objectives in Healthy People 2010. This May, HVM is dedicated
to increasing awareness of glaucoma, a silent disease that is taking away the sight of millions of Americans.
NEI director Dr. Paul Sieving said, “NEI-funded research has shown that treatment during the early stages of glaucoma can control the disease and prevent
future vision loss and blindness. This is why NEI encourages people at higher risk for glaucoma to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam every 1 to 2 years.”
More than four million Americans have glaucoma, an eye disease that damages the optic nerve and destroys eyesight. However, nearly half of those with glaucoma are not even aware they have it. With its painless and gradual loss of vision, glaucoma
comes with no early warning signs, but it can be detected during a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Those at higher risk for developing glaucoma
include everyone over age 60, especially Mexican
Americans; African Americans over age 40; and anyone with a family history of glaucoma.
“A dilated eye examination is essential to protecting
the vision of those at higher risk for glaucoma,” noted Dr. Anne L. Coleman, Frances and Ray Stark professor of ophthalmology at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute and chair of the glaucoma subcommittee
for the eye health education program. “High pressure inside the eye, which may be associated with glaucoma, does not by itself mean that you have glaucoma. Only a dilated eye exam and evaluation
of the optic nerve can tell you that.”
This year’s HVM web site provides material in both English and Spanish on early detection, treatment and follow-up care for glaucoma. Site users can also spread the word to people they care about by sending e-cards or postcards designed with information about glaucoma and the importance
of dilated eye exams. Also on the site is a variety of education materials, including an interactive
glaucoma Eye-Q Test.
For more information on HVM 2007 and to help spread the word about glaucoma, visit www.healthyvision2010.org/hvm.