Prevent Blindness Georgia Awarded $50,000 Healthcare Georgia Foundation Grant

In recognition of the most influential organizations and programs benefitting the health of Georgians in 2014, Healthcare Georgia Foundation awarded 21 fourth quarter grants to leading organizations committed to providing quality and affordable healthcare to underserved individuals and communities. Of those awarded was Prevent Blindness Georgia, based on our merits of providing children and adults in 111 counties in Georgia with direct services focused on vision care, eye health education, and early detection of eye disease.

The combined 2014 grants mark the highest number of annual awards since the Foundation first began issuing grants in 2002.

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“Prevent Blindness Georgia is pleased to have Healthcare Georgia Foundation recognize and support our mission to provide affordable eye care to families while also educating them about the importance of eye health,” Prevent Blindness Georgia President William Burke stated. “With the Foundation’s assistance, we will continue to expand our services throughout the community and spark more conversation about one of life’s most precious gems, eyesight.

Prevent Blindness Georgia received $50,000 to provide free vision exams and retinal screenings to uninsured adults at risk for glaucoma and to implement database upgrades to better track client outcomes. The improvements will help Prevent Blindness Georgia better serve a vulnerable population with little to no access to vision care.

“Without proper insurance and vision care, adults and children are not only at risk for life changing eye diseases but at worst, blindness,” added Burke. “Regular eye exams will allow vision defects to be detected early, improving the quality of life of Georgians below the federal poverty level.”

Spring Break Contact Lens Health Tips

With Spring Break just around the corner, and lots of traveling on the horizon, don’t forget to fall out of your normal routine of healthy contact lens care! Here are some quick tips to keep your eyes safe over Spring Break:

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  • Take contact lenses out before bed, even when up late or traveling (unless your eye care provider tells you otherwise).
  • Bring enough contact lens supplies and a spare pair of glasses when traveling.
  • Never swim or shower in contact lenses.
  • All contact lenses require a prescription from an eye care provider. Never buy decorative contact lenses from illegal vendors.

Be prepared while traveling; don’t let vision troubles put a damper on your fun this Spring Break.

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Did you know glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness, only second to cataracts? When it comes to glaucoma, knowledge is power! Arm yourself with these facts and statistics so you are aware of the risk factors for this growing disease.

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What is Glaucoma?

  • In the early stages, glaucoma has no symptoms, no noticeable vision loss, no pain, which is why it is called the “sneak thief of sight.” By the time symptoms start to appear, some permanent damage to the eye has usually occurred.
  • Glaucoma that is undiagnosed or poorly controlled can lead to damage of the optic nerve, visual field loss and ultimately sight loss. People with glaucoma usually lose peripheral vision first. Over time, glaucoma may also damage central vision. Once lost, vision cannot be restored.
  • Everyone is at risk for glaucoma from young to old. Although older people are at higher risk, approximately 1 out of every 10,000 babies born in the United States is diagnosed with the disease.

The Facts:

  • The US population with glaucoma is estimated to increase by nearly 50% to 4.3 million by 2032 and more than 90% to 5.5 million by 2050.
  • Currently, the largest age group of glaucoma patients is the 40-59 age group. By 2018, the largest age group of glaucoma patients will be 70-79. The largest age group will be 80-89 after 2032.
  • Currently, 64% of glaucoma patients are white and 20% are black. By 2050, most glaucoma patients will be non-white, due primarily to the rapid increase in Hispanic glaucoma patients. By 2050, blacks and Hispanics will each constitute about 20% of all glaucoma patients.
  • The projected medical treatment costs related to glaucoma and disorders of the optic nerve are also expected to skyrocket in the coming years. Today, more than $6 billion is spent annually on the disease. In 2032, the number jumps to $12 billion a year and by 2050, the annual medical treatment cost is estimated to be $17.3 billion.
  • Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African-Americans.
  • Glaucoma often occurs earlier in life in African-Americans—on average, about 10 years earlier than in other ethnic populations.
  • Glaucoma is six-to-eight times more common in African-Americans than Caucasians.
  • While open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma among Hispanics, Caucasians and African Americans, another form of glaucoma known as acute angle-closure glaucoma has traditionally been more common in certain Asian populations and Americans of Asian descent.
  • Juvenile open angle glaucoma (JOAG) is a rare form of glaucoma that accounts for approximately one percent of total cases. The clinical features of JOAG are the same as those of more common forms of glaucoma.  

Glaucoma Risk Factors

  • Age: Those that are 40 and older are more likely to develop glaucoma. The older you are, the greater your risk.
  • Race: People of African or Afro-Caribbean heritage are more likely to get glaucoma than the rest of the population. They are also more likely to develop glaucoma at a younger age.
  • Family History: If you have a parent or sibling who has glaucoma, you are more likely to develop the disease.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes have a higher risk (40 percent) of developing glaucoma.
  • Nearsightedness: People who are very nearsighted are at greater risk.
  • Eye Injury or Surgery: Those who have had eye surgery or eye injuries may develop secondary glaucoma.
  • Steroid Medication: Steroids may increase the risk of glaucoma when used for extended periods of time.

Types of Glaucoma:

  • Chronic (Open Angle) Glaucoma: This is the most common type. In open angle glaucoma, aqueous fluid drains too slowly and pressure inside the eye builds up. It usually results from aging of the drainage channel, which doesn’t work as well over time. However, younger people can also get this type of glaucoma.
  • Normal Tension Glaucoma: This is a form of open angle glaucoma not related to high pressure. People with normal tension glaucoma may be unusually sensitive to normal levels of pressure. Reduced blood supply to the optic nerve may also play a role in normal tension glaucoma.
  • Acute (Angle Closure) Glaucoma: This causes a sudden rise in eye pressure, requiring immediate, emergency medical care. The signs are usually serious and may include blurred vision, severe headaches, eye pain, nausea, vomiting or seeing rainbow-like halos around lights. Occasionally, the condition may be without symptoms; similar to open angle.
  • Secondary Glaucoma: Another 10 percent of glaucoma cases come from certain diseases and conditions that damage the eye’s drainage system. These include diabetes, leukemia, sickle-cell anemia, some forms of arthritis, cataracts, eye injuries or inflammation of the eye, steroid drug use and growth of unhealthy blood vessels.
  • Post-surgical Glaucoma: Some surgeries, such as retinal reattachments, increase the chance of getting glaucoma.

Wyatt’s Story

Four-year-old Wyatt lives a good life: exploring, laughing, learning. His parents, Jennifer and Matt, count themselves lucky. Wyatt is the picture of health. But last month, Wyatt came home from school with a letter notifying them that their son failed a vision screening performed in his Pre-K class by Prevent Blindness Georgia’s Star Pupils program.
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“How could this be?” Jennifer asked. “Wyatt had never given us ANY indication that he has trouble seeing. There were no signs. No symptoms.”

Upon bringing Wyatt to the eye doctor for a full, comprehensive eye exam, his parents learned Wyatt suffers from severe nearsightedness in one eye.

“All this time, Wyatt was seeing the world incorrectly. Things were blurry and confusing. I had absolutely no idea there was a problem,” Jennifer continues.

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.02.38 PM copyUpon receiving his new glasses, Wyatt instantly began commenting on the new, bright, clear world around him. “Wyatt keeps talking about how colorful things are. How big the trees are. How clear the TV is when he watches his favorite movie,” Matt shares. “He can SEE. If it weren’t for Prevent Blindness Georgia, we never would have known Wyatt has a vision problem. They caught it early enough, before his sight impairment got in the way of his learning and development. We are so grateful.”

As part of the Star Pupils program, Prevent Blindness Georgia visits Pre-K classrooms across the state and offers free vision screenings to three through five-year-olds. In 2014, PBGA screened more than 31,000 children. A vision screening costs PBGA merely $9 and is critical in detecting the vision impairments that affect 1 out of 4 school children. Your support ensures our program is a success:

  • $9 – Vision screens one child
  • $45 – Vision screens five children
  • $200 – Vision screens an entire Pre-K classroom
Our goal is to offer a vision screening to every Pre-K child in the state of Georgia. This holiday season, help us find more children like Wyatt.

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Roman’s Story

nookandsea-firmoo-glasses-review-online-retailer-tortoise-shell-unisex-full-frame-acetate-glasses-wood-tableThe following letter was written by Prevent Blindness Georgia President and CEO William Burke:

DeAndria, a member of the Prevent Blindness Georgia staff, recently shared with me the story of a young man named Roman. Roman is the rock of his family and his story is so inspiring, I simply have to share it with you.

Most twenty-somethings have a lot on their minds: friends, career, fun. But Roman has a little more on his plate than your typical twenty-three year old man. When Roman’s mother fell ill, his family turned to him – and his income – to support them. Roman has a full-time job, working long hours at a fast food restaurant. But after paying for his family’s bills and day-to-day living expenses, his income is completely spent.

When Roman walked into our clinic this October, he revealed that he had been wearing the same pair of glasses since he was 14 years old. While Roman is grateful for his job, it does not come with insurance. And he knew that an eye exam and a new pair of glasses were simply out of his reach. With 9 years of wear and tear, you can only imagine the condition they were in. The right lens falls out constantly and one handle had completely broken off. Making do with the resources he had, Roman reconstructed the handle with a piece of wire.

Roman received an eye exam from us and three weeks later, received a new pair of glasses. Thanks to the support of the Prevent Blindness Georgia community, Roman paid nothing. “As soon as I put these new glasses on, I felt a new sense of confidence,” Roman said. “I know when I talk to people now, they won’t be staring at my scratched lenses and wire handle. They’ll be looking at me.”

Since 1965, Prevent Blindness Georgia has been dedicated to helping people like Roman see the world around them… and simply live their lives.

Rates of Diabetic Eye Disease Expected to Increase by 3 million by 2032

Public health agencies across the country are feeling the impact from a skyrocketing number of diabetes cases on public health programs and funding. Eye disease is one potential consequence of diabetes on public health, as it can lead to vision loss and blindness. According to a recent study from Prevent Blindness, the estimated number of diabetic retinopathy cases in 2014 is currently more than 8 million. The number is projected to increase to nearly 11 million by 2032.

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Prevent Blindness Georgia has declared November as Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month to help educate the public on diabetes prevention strategies, potential risk factors, treatment options and Medicare coverage policies. To assist in this effort, the organization is calling on state and local public health agencies to increase their attention to the eye care needs of those living with diabetes, as well as those who may be at high risk for the condition.

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. Diabetes patients are 40 percent more likely to develop glaucoma and 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts than those without diabetes. Early detection and treatment of diabetes can help prevent vision impairment and blindness.

“Public education is an important key to reducing the onset of vision problems related to diabetes,” said DeAndria Nichols, VP of Adult Vision Programs at Prevent Blindness Georgia. “Public health workers at the state and local level are committed to the health and well-being of those living in their state, and can have the largest impact on increasing public awareness.”

Prevent Blindness has distributed a number of diabetic eye disease resources to key public health leaders, encouraging them to join the sight-saving fight to address this growing epidemic. Such resources include an online course aimed at preparing health educators to address the vision care needs of their clients, information on the growing impact of diabetic eye disease, financial assistance resources for those in need, eye health fact sheets, and many more.

Programs include:

The Diabetic Eye Disease Educator Course – Offered in both English and Spanish, this program was developed to equip health educators with important patient and client education messages about diabetic eye disease and strategies for maintaining healthy vision that can be delivered through health outreach programs of community health centers, health departments, medical practices, and civic and faith-based organizations to individuals with diabetes as well as populations at highest risk for developing diabetes, including African-Americans, Hispanics and Latinos. The online course can be found at http://diabetes.preventblindness.org/.

Healthy Eyes Educational Series, Adult Vision Problems Module – Community health educators and outreach workers, public health personnel, community and senior center program directors, employers seeking “lunch-and-learn” topics, and safety directors can utilize the Healthy Eyes Educational Series to conduct formal presentations or informal one-on-one sessions that can be customized utilizing modules most appropriate to the audience or clients. The Adult Vision Problems module covers signs and symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options for diabetic retinopathy, cataract and glaucoma. It can easily be downloaded for any presentation purposes at preventblindness.org/healthy-eyes-educational-series.

Living Well With Low Vision – Designed for people living with low vision and their caretakers to educate themselves about loss of vision and to meet the daily challenges resulting from it. By empowering individuals, we hope to provide practical ways for people to improve the quality of their daily lives and relieve the emotional trauma that often accompanies low vision. The program can be found at http://lowvision.preventblindness.org/.

Additional resources include state prevalence rates and cost information related to diabetic eye disease as well as a listing of financial assistance resources.

For more information on diabetic eye disease, please call Prevent Blindness at (404) 266-2020 or visit preventblindness.org/diabetes.

Avoiding Toy-Related Eye Injuries this Holiday Season

ss_101566405With the holiday season fast approaching, many of you will be purchasing toys for the children in your lives. Please keep the following tips in-mind to prevent your child from being falling victim to one of the nearly 265,000 toy-related injuries that happen each year.

  • Read all warnings and instructions on toys
  • Avoid toys with sharp or rigid points, shafts, spikes, rods, and dangerous edges
  • Keep toys intended for older children away from younger children
  • Avoid flying toys and projectile-firing toys; those pose a danger to all children, particularly those under five years old
  • Be aware of items in playgrounds and play areas that pose potential eye hazards
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