Millions Of Americans With Glaucoma Could Save Sight With Early Detection, Treatment

LOS ANGELES (January 6, 1999) -- Flight attendant Vesta McDermott credits a chance encounter with a passenger in the darkened cabin of a DC-10 with saving her sight. That passenger was Michael S. Berlin, M.D., an ophthalmologist on the medical staff of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, who recognized the signs of advanced glaucoma in Vesta's left eye. Dr. Berlin's expertise so impressed Vesta, who had undergone treatment for the condition for many years, that she vowed to make an appointment with him after she completed an impending move to Los Angeles from New York. Today, Vesta's glaucoma is under control -- a heartening circumstance she attributes to impressive advancements in medical care and treatment.

Vesta is one of 10 million Americans with glaucoma, though only an estimated two to four million have been diagnosed with the often symptom-less disease. During National Glaucoma Awareness Month in January, medical professionals and glaucoma sufferers alike urge people to have their eyes examined for the disease, which can result in blindness when left untreated. In the U.S., as many as 116,000 people are legally blind due to glaucoma, and an estimated 5,500 new cases of disease-related blindness are reported each year.

"It's so important for people to seek examinations for glaucoma, especially if it runs in your family," stressed Vesta, whose family has a history of the disease. "When you're in your twenties and thirties, you don't think anything of it. If I'd known then what wonderful treatments were available, I would have had a glaucoma examination much sooner."

Described as "the sneak thief of sight," glaucoma results from elevated eye pressure that damages the optic nerve, resulting in loss of side vision that can progress without treatment. Dr. Berlin, who is also Director of the Glaucoma Institute/Beverly Hills, recommends that those with a family history of the disease or are in a high risk group, particularly African-Americans, should have

Contact: Sandra Van
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

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