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San Francisco, CA - Glaucoma, a blinding disease striking an estimated 4 million Americans, was the focus of California Assemblywoman Fiona Ma’s speech here as she called for the Golden State to adopt a Glaucoma Awareness Month, urging all Californians to get checked for glaucoma “early and often.”
Ma, along with State Senator Leland Yee, addressed several hundred ophthalmologists at the 15th annual Glaucoma Research and Education Group’s education symposium, saying, “Feel free to utilize us - our job is to be your voice. We want to help you get your message out to cure blindness.”
Because glaucoma usually has no symptoms until it’s too late and the blindness is permanent, Ma’s message to get checked regularly is key to detecting the disease before damage to sight has occurred, said Andrew Iwach, MD, Executive Director of the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco and organizer of the symposium. Currently glaucoma has no known single cause and no known cure. Although anyone can get glaucoma, it is most likely to strike African-Americans, diabetics, those over 60 years of age, people who are very near-sighted, and anyone with glaucoma in their family, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation.
Iwach added, “Nationally, January is already the awareness month for glaucoma. But by bringing the message home to Californians, we can better target those in high-risk groups and remind everyone to get checked annually.”
Already an activist for raising access to healthcare and healthcare education, Ma reminded the audience of physicians that they “have a voice in public policy.” UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake, MD, also an ophthalmologist, noted that the personal touch, especially in writing letters to legislators, goes far in getting the message across. Ma echoed this by telling the crowd, “If you have patients or family members willing to talk - that is the way to raise awareness.”
Last reviewed on February 27, 2011