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Thu Jan 19, 2017
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Don't Be 'Blind-sided' by Eye Health

Don't Be 'Blind-sided' by Eye Health

Source: By Journalist Seaman Erica Mater, National Naval Medical Center Public

Glaucoma is an eye disease that can gradually impair your vision without warning and, oftentimes, without symptoms. The National Naval Medical Center's glaucoma specialist, Capt. Matthew Nutaitis, said it is important for military health care beneficiaries to have eye exams to help detect glaucoma early. With early detection, glaucoma can be treated, hopefully preserving the vision of our military retirees. “Although the disease cannot be reversed, there are medications and treatments that slow the disease and stabilize vision,” said Nutaitis, who is one of only two glaucoma specialists in the Navy.


 According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, more than 3 million Americans have glaucoma, but only half of those know they have it. Glaucoma is also the leading cause of preventable blindness. Symptoms of glaucoma include loss of peripheral vision. Seeing rings or halos around light, difficulty adjusting eyes to the dark, and headaches or eye pain are symptoms of narrow-angle glaucoma. However, these are late symptoms and do not usually develop until the later stages of the disease. Nutaitis says open-angle glaucoma develops gradually and painlessly. By the time you start having visual symptoms, serious damage may already be present. There are certain groups that are at higher risk for the disease. African-Americans, people over 60, and those who have sustained serious eye injury are at a higher risk for glaucoma. Also, those who have a family history of glaucoma are also at a higher risk for developing the disease.


Glaucoma can be treated and slowed, but it is not preventable, which is why Nutaitis says it is critical to get a yearly eye exam for those at risk. At the hospital, active-duty members are screened yearly at the Ophthalmology Clinic. Retirees can also be seen at the clinic on a “space-available” basis or at outlying clinics in the area. “We really want to educate people about glaucoma,” said Nutaitis. “They sometimes call it a silent threat, because it sneaks up on people. But if you get regular screenings, you will be able to see it coming, and more importantly, you’ll still be able to see.”


For more information about glaucoma, visit the Glaucoma Research Foundation Web site, or visit the Glaucoma Foundation Web site

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