New York, NY (March 12, 2009) – In an effort to combat one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary marked World Glaucoma Day, March 12, 2009, with an eye screening for hundreds of United Nations officials – ambassadors, deputy ambassadors, the secretary general and staff – at the UN headquarters building in New York City on March 11th, 2009.
Of some 400 persons screened, 17 were found to have glaucoma and another 62 had conditions predisposing to glaucoma.
Photo: Robert Ritch, MD, examines Vanu Gopala Menon, Ambassador to the United Nations from Singapore. Among the more than 30 other volunteer staff on hand were (left to right) Gustavo deMoraes, MD, an NYEE glaucoma fellow; Scott Christiansen, president of The Glaucoma Foundation; and Ella Rosemont-Morgan, Friends of the Congressional Glacuoma Caucus. Close to 400 people were screened. More Photos >>
New York Eye and Ear was supported in this effort by ophthalmologists and staff of The Glaucoma Foundation and the Friends of the Congressional Glaucoma Caucus Foundation.
"Glaucoma is a global disease and because glaucoma strikes so silently and gradually, it is absolutely crucial to educate people about the value of early detection," said Robert Ritch, MD, professor and chief of glaucoma services at The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary.
Dr. Ritch is also Medical Director and Chairman, Scientific Advisory Board, of The Glaucoma Foundation and co-founder of the World Glaucoma Patient Association.
“It is hoped that a high-profile venue such as the United Nations will raise international awareness that about 90% of blindness from glaucoma can be prevented by early detection and treatment,” said Dr. Ritch.
Known as “the sneak thief of sight,” glaucoma is characterized by gradual loss of vision resulting from death of the cells in the eye which transmit visual images through the optic nerve to the brain. As the optic nerve becomes increasingly damaged, permanent vision loss occurs and can result in blindness. Early detection is the key to treating and halting the effects of glaucoma.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States and leading cause in African-Americans. Because glaucoma has no symptoms in its initial stages, about 50% of persons with glaucoma are unaware that they have it, while this number can reach 90% in developing countries.
Persons at high risk for glaucoma should have their eyes examined for the disease at least every two years by an eye care professional. Persons most at risk include those with a family history of glaucoma, African-Americans over the age of 40, people who are very nearsighted or farsighted, and all persons over the age of 60.
In the early stages of glaucoma, there may be no symptoms and vision can appear to be normal until a large amount has been lost. If undetected and untreated, glaucoma will gradually claim all peripheral vision and move on to cause total blindness.
With early detection, glaucoma can be treated with eye drops to lower intraocular pressure. Other methods include laser and operative surgery. Treatment can usually halt the disease, but it cannot reverse the damage that has been done. Glaucoma can develop in one or both eyes.
Eye care institutions and local patient support groups in 70 countries on every continent planned 1,000 similar awareness, educational and screening events for World Glaucoma Day.
About World Glaucoma Association:
The World Glaucoma Association is a global organization dedicated to the overall improvement of glaucoma science and care. Comprised of leading medical experts and institutions throughout the world, the group’s overall goal is to optimize the quality of glaucoma research and treatment through increased communication and cooperation among international glaucoma societies, industries, and patient organizations. For additional information about the WGA and WGD, visit http://wgday.org.
About Robert Ritch, MD, and The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary:
For more than 30 years, Robert Ritch, MD, of The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, has devoted his career to broadening understanding by the medical profession and patients about the nature of glaucoma and innovation in medical, laser, and surgical treatment of the disease. Dr. Ritch holds the Shelley and Steven Einhorn Distinguished Chair in Ophthalmology and is Surgeon Director and Chief of Glaucoma Services at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, New York City and Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at The New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY.
Founded in 1820, The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary is the first specialty hospital in the Western Hemisphere. It is also one of the largest providers of primary through tertiary eye care in the US. with more than 19,000 eye surgeries and 125,000 ophthalmology outpatient visits yearly.
About World Glaucoma Patient Association:
The World Glaucoma Patient Association is an umbrella organization which supports glaucoma associations and networks worldwide in their efforts to educate and support their members so that all people with glaucoma can understand and better manage their disease. The WGPA facilitates the establishment of glaucoma support groups in many nations.
About The Glaucoma Foundation:
The mission of The Glaucoma Foundation (TGF) is to fund groundbreaking research and to educate the public about the disease and the importance of early detection to prevent blindness. Founded in1984 by Dr. Robert Ritch, TGF is one of the premier not-for-profit organizations dedicated to eradicating blindness from glaucoma through vital research and education.
About the Congressional Glaucoma Caucus:
The Congressional Glaucoma Caucus is a non-partisan organization of members of the United States Congress whose purpose is to education all communities about the risks of glaucoma and other blindness-causing eye diseases, and to provide diagnostic screening opportunities for high-risk population groups across the nations. Members include US Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and a dozen NY US Representatives.
For interviews with Dr. Ritch about World Glaucoma Day, please contact Ms. Jean Thomas at NYEE, 212.979.4274, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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