April 21, 2003 – The Congressional Glaucoma Caucus Foundation and the V.I. Health Department will screen Virgin Islands residents for glaucoma, high blood pressure and diabetes at health fairs this week on St. Croix and St. Thomas.
The St. Croix screenings will be on Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Sunshine Mall.
The St. Thomas one will be on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the East End Medical Center in Tutu Park Mall.
The glaucoma test is quick and painless; it simply involves a puff of air directed into your eye. Delegate Donna M. Christensen, a member of the Glaucoma Caucus Foundation, urged people in the following categories to be tested:
– Everyone over the age of 40.
– Anyone with a family history of glaucoma, diabetes and/or high blood pressure.
– Anyone who has suffered eye injury and/or is nearsighted.
– Anyone who has used steroids over a prolonged period.
"It may be a decision that can save your eyesight," Christensen, a physician, said.
Glaucoma, known as "the silent thief," is an eye disorder that damages the optic nerve, which carries messages from the eye to the brain. If caught early, glaucoma can be stopped before permanent damage is done and blindness occurs. There is no cure for the disease, which currently affects three million Americans and has left 120,000 of them blind.
According to the All About Vision Web site, glaucoma gradually reduces peripheral vision. By the time you notice it, permanent damage has been done.
Other signs include headaches, blurred vision, difficulty adapting to darkness and haloes around lights. Chronic glaucoma normally develops after age 35.
Blacks are four times more likely to get glaucoma than whites. It also develops earlier in blacks. Among whites, groups at higher risk include people with Scandinavian, Irish and Russian backgrounds.
Brian Modeste, an aide to Christensen, said the Glaucoma Caucus was formed by members of Congress with an interest in this disease. The not-for-profit foundation is funded by private contributions and grants.
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