September 1, 2005
CONTACT: Suzanna Cisneros Martinez, suzanna.martinez@ttuhsc.edu

LUBBOCK – Sports legend Willie Mays and actress Diahann Carroll share a common interest: educating the African-American community of the risks of glaucoma through a national video campaign called “Glaucoma and You.”

Joining the campaign is M. Roy Wilson, M.D., M.S., president of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, who also was named as the national co-spokesman of the project.

Wilson said more than half a million African-Americans are diagnosed with glaucoma, and an additional quarter million may have it and not be aware because of the lack of symptoms.

“Glaucoma and You” is a 30-minute educational video developed to increase glaucoma awareness, diagnosis and treatment among African-Americans. Wilson said the goal of the project is to ignite a call to action within the community that encourages African-Americans to visit eye care professionals earlier in life and get screened for glaucoma before serious damage from the disease can occur.

“Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African-Americans,” Wilson said. “It normally progresses so slowly that there are no warning signs before permanent damage have occurred to the eye. Educating the African-American community of the importance of having a yearly eye exam could detect glaucoma and prevent vision loss.”

Although glaucoma can affect everyone, Wilson said African-Americans are more susceptible to the disease. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, glaucoma is three to four times more common in African-Americans than in Caucasians.

Wilson added that African-Americans ages 45 to 65 are seven times more likely to go blind from glaucoma than Caucasians with glaucoma in the same age group.

“African-Americans need to understand the risks of this devastating disease and realize that the earlier it is diagnosed, the better chance they have of protecting their eyes and preserving their sight,” Wilson said.

Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve, which is the nerve that connects the eye to the brain. Wilson said when the natural fluid inside the eye does not drain properly, pressure within the eye can increase, damaging the optic nerve and leading to loss of vision.

Wilson adds that treatment options focus on reducing eye pressure. Ophthalmologists may prescribe daily eye drops, which have been shown to reduce the development of glaucoma in people with elevated eye pressure by almost 50 percent. Other options in people with glaucoma may include surgery, either laser or conventional, to help fluid drain more effectively to relieve eye pressure.

Wilson, an internationally recognized glaucoma researcher and ophthalmologist, was recently inducted into the American Ophthalmological Society, the oldest subspecialty society in the country. He also was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in October 2003.

For more information about Glaucoma and You, contact Suzanna Cisneros Martinez, Department of Communications and Marketing, at (806) 743-2143 or visit the Glaucoma Research Foundation at http:www.glaucoma.org/learn.