JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – About three million Americans have glaucoma, according to the CDC. Since there are often no early symptoms, 50 percent do not know they have the disease.
In honor of “World Sight Day,” local doctors are giving free glaucoma screenings on Thursday.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Doctors with Florida Eye Specialists say annual eye exams are important.
Glaucoma can lead to vision loss and patients will not be able to get it back.
Patients must call to schedule a free appointment at either the Gate Parkway facility (11512 Lake Mead Avenue, #534) or Orange Park (1560 Kingsley Avenue. #3).
The number to call to set up those appointments is 904-564-2020. The free screenings are available between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday.
Craig Donovan has been getting treated for glaucoma for 15 years.
“When the pressure goes up, I do get headaches, specifically on the right side of my head,” he said. “I tend to get blurriness that I did not have before.”
Although dealing with other eye issues, Donovan says there were some warning signs of the disease.
“I had headaches, and I am not a headache guy,” he said. “There was some blurry vision.”
Donovan believes he was fortunate to experience symptoms because That is not the case for everyone. Because the disease can be silent, ophthalmologists with Florida Eye Specialists are offering a day of free glaucoma vision screenings Thursday.
Dr. Kathryn Freidl hopes they can catch the disease quickly in some patients or outright prevent it in others.
“An ounce of prevention is a pound of cure,” Freidl said.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes damage to the optic nerve that connects the eye to the brain. It could lead to irreversible blindness. Anyone can get glaucoma, but there are some at higher risk of being diagnosed. They include those 40 years old and older, anyone with family history of glaucoma, those of African American, Asian or Hispanic descent and patients with diabetes or high blood pressure.
“It was something that I did not expect,” Donovan said. “I think people take their eyes for granted.”
“I know thousands of people who would give anything to be able to rewind the clock and intervene just a little bit sooner,” Freidl said.
The free tests could be a difference maker.