LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) – Eye doctors call it the 'silent vision thief' and now researchers are finding that Glaucoma is affecting one race more than any other. African Americans are five times more likely to contract the disease than Caucasians. Dr. William Hart, an ophthalmologist at the Hart Eye Center, warns the disease can cause complete blindness and often doesn't show any symptoms until a person begins losing visual field.
African Americans and older Hispanics are also six times more likely to go blind from glaucoma than Caucasians, "simply because they're not getting their eye pressure checked frequently," said Dr. Hart.
He said researchers are not sure why race plays a role in contracting the disease, but "it has something to do with connective tissue and in blacks and Hispanics the little criss-crossing beams of connective tissue are thicker."
The eye pressure inside of the eye can build up from this disease and then push on the optic nerve and damage the nerves sending signals to the brain, explained Dr. Hart.
Eye doctors can prescribe special eye drops and, when taken once before bedtime, these drops can lower the eye pressure and ward off loss of vision.
Dr. Hart said a major problem with the treatment is many people do not keep up with the drops. He urges anyone over 40 years old to get their eye pressure checked annually and if you have a genetic history of glaucoma to start getting checked after age 20.