Free tests for glaucoma, a cause of irreversible blindness

The disease usually appears after the age of 50 and cannot be felt until it causes harm.

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March 8, 2010 05:33
2 minute read.
Free tests for glaucoma, a cause of irreversible blindness

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Free, painless tests will be offered to the public on Tuesday to detect glaucoma, an eye disease that is the second-most-common cause of blindness and affects some 70 million people around the world. Over $3 billion is spend annually on treatment for the condition.

The disease, caused by high intraocular pressure (pressure of liquid inside the eye that presses on the optic nerve), usually appears after the age of 50 and, like diabetes and hypertension, cannot be felt until it causes harm. It is a progressive disease that can lead to irreversible loss of vision.

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Unlike in the past, there are now medications, mostly eyedrops, that relieve the pressure and halt damage to vision, but if glaucoma is diagnosed at a later stage, laser surgery and other treatments are needed to halt harm to the eye.

Half of those who have glaucoma are unaware of it. Two percent of Israelis over 40 have the disease, and an additional 8% of those over 40 suffer from high intraocular pressure that can result in vision damage. One in three people over 80 has the disease.

Dr. Yossi Pikkel, head of ophthalmology at Ziv Medical Center in Safed, says that early detection is vital, but public awareness is low except among people with a family history and diabetics.

Although World Glaucoma Day is March 12, it is being marked here three days earlier. Ziv Medical Center is offering free tests on Tuesday, March 8, between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Other locations offering free tests, all between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., are the Haifa Mall, Emek Medical Center in Afula, Nazareth’s Big Fashion Mall, the Abd el-Latif mall in Umm el-Fahm, Arim Mall in Kfar Saba, Weizmann Center in Tel Aviv, Givatayim Mall, Rehovot Mall, Hadar Mall in Jerusalem, Giron Mall in Ashkelon, Government Mall in Beersheba, and Eilat’s Maccabi Health Services clinic in Sderot Hatmarim. Members of all health funds are invited to be tested.

Clinical trials are now being conducted on an innovative carbon dioxide laser called IOPtiMate, developed by the Ramat Gan company IOPtima, that enables the performance of a swift, simplified and noninvasive filtration procedure for the relief of intraocular pressure. Approved by the European authorities, it has an American patent and aims at US Food and Drug Administration approval after its clinical trials are completed.

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