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Glaucoma and cataracts
Blindness affects African-Americans more frequently than whites and Hispanics. Glaucoma and cataracts can lead to blindness and are serious problems for African-Americans.
Glaucoma (glaw-KOH-muh) is a group of diseases that can harm the eye's optic nerve and cause vision loss and blindness. The optic nerve is a bundle of more than 1 million nerve fibers that takes the images we see to the brain. A healthy optic nerve is needed for good vision. The rate of glaucoma is five times higher in African-Americans than in whites. Glaucoma is also 15 times more likely to cause blindness in African-Americans than in whites.
Glaucoma often has few or no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they can include:
- Blurred vision
- Seeing a halo around lights
- Reddening of the eye
- Severe eye pain
- Nausea and vomiting
It's important to get treatment for glaucoma right away. With early treatment, you can often avoid major vision loss. If glaucoma is not treated, you may start missing things to the side or out of the corner of your eye. Over time, straight-ahead vision may get worse and you may become blind.
A cataract (KAT-uh-rakt) is a clouding of the eye's lens. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. Symptoms of cataracts include:
- Cloudy or blurry vision
- Colors looking faded
- Poor night vision
- Seeing double
- Seeing a halo around lights
See an eye doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms.
There are things you can do to help protect your vision:
- Get regular eye checkups because eye diseases don't always have symptoms. African-Americans over age 40 should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years. If you have diabetes, you need an eye exam at least once a year. Ask your doctor how often you should have your eyes checked.
- Protect your eyes from the sun with sunglasses and a hat.
- Don't smoke. If you smoke, try to quit. For help along the way, check out our Quitting Smoking section.
- Control your blood pressure.
- Eat healthy foods, including lots of fruits and green leafy vegetables.
Explore other publications and websites
African-Americans and Glaucoma (Copyright © African American Community Health Advisory Committee) — African Americans have high rates of glaucoma and tend to get it at an earlier age. This article explains glaucoma and talks about the need for regular testing. It includes a list of additional factors that may increase your risk of getting glaucoma.
Cataract — This online resource guide provides information about cataracts. It answers questions about causes and symptoms, and discusses diagnosis and types of treatment.
Cataract — This Internet Site provides general information about cataracts. It includes information on the risk factors, symptoms, prevention, and detection, as well as the underlining development of cataracts.
Cataract (Copyright © Prevent Blindness America) — This publication contains information on cataract, a disease of the eye that can cause blindness. This resource explains who is at risk for cataracts and describes symptoms and available treatments.
Don't Lose Sight of Glaucoma — This online resource guide provides information about glaucoma. It answers questions about causes and symptoms, and discusses diagnosis and types of treatment.
Find an Eye M.D. (Copyright © American Academy of Ophthalmology) — The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) provides this online listing of member ophthalmologists practicing in the United States and abroad. The website allows you to search by name, city, zip code, or country.
Glaucoma Frequently Asked Questions (Copyright © The Glaucoma Foundation) — This publication answers questions about glaucoma screenings, such as examination of the optic nerve, the visual field test, and air tonometry pressure test.
The Glaucoma Learning Center (Copyright © Prevent Blindness America) — Glaucoma is a group of diseases usually associated with increased pressure within the eye. This publication provides more information on this eye disease.
Connect with other organizations
American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery
Glaucoma Research Foundation
National Eye Institute, NIH, HHS
Prevent Blindness America
The Glaucoma Foundation
Content last updated May 18, 2010.
Resources last updated May 18, 2010.
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