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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:
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:
See an eye doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms.
There are things you can do to help protect your vision:
Content last updated: May 18, 2010.
Resources last updated: May 18, 2010.