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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 18, 2009
CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
Executive Director
240-221-2905
jamesj@eyeresearch.org

AEVR RECOGNIZES SECOND ANNUAL WORLD GLAUCOMA DAY WITH MARCH 10 CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING

(Washington, D.C.) Today, the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) announced that it was joining with the American Glaucoma Society, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the Glaucoma Research Foundation, and The Glaucoma Foundation in presenting a Congressional Briefing entitled Glaucoma—The Stealth Robber of Vision, to be held Tuesday, March 10, 2009, from 12 Noon Ė 1:15 pm in Rayburn House Office Building B-369. To RSVP, contact dinabeau@aol.com or 202-530-4672.

The event recognizes the second annual World Glaucoma Day, being held on March 12, and presents an opportunity to raise awareness about glaucoma, which is a progressive disease of the optic nerve that robs individuals of both peripheral and central vision. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of preventable vision loss in the United States, afflicting 2.2 million Americans, and the leading cause of permanent blindness worldwide, afflicting 67 million individuals. It often has no symptoms until vision loss occurs—the National Eye Institute (NEI) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that, in the US, more than half of the individuals with glaucoma are unaware they have it.

Researchers funded by the NEI will describe the disease and its incidence and economic burden, as well as discuss the latest research, including: determining the genetic basis of different types of the disease and the potential for gene therapy approaches; identifying factors that protect the optic nerve from damage; evaluating the potential for optic nerve cell regeneration; and better understanding how elevated intraocular pressure leads to optic nerve damage. These researchers include:

  • Rohit Varma, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the Glaucoma Service, Ocular Epidemiology Center and Clinical Trials Unit at the Doheny Eye Institute, University of Southern California. In 2004, Dr. Varma spoke at a Congressional briefing about the NEI-funded Los Angeles Latino Eye Study (LALES), in which he serves as the Principal Investigator.

  • Murray Fingeret, O.D., Clinical Professor at the SUNY College of Optometry and Chief of the Optometry Section, Brooklyn/St. Albans Campus, Department of Veterans Administration New York Harbor Health Care System.
In March 2008, both speakers participated in a joint meeting that the NEI held with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) entitled Glaucoma Endpoints at which researchers acknowledged that glaucoma is a complex, neurodegenerative disease in which detectable structural changes within the eye may not progress linearly or in concert with functional changes, that is, vision loss. Glaucoma affects all age groups and disproportionately affects underserved minority populations, with African-Americans having a three times greater risk of developing it than White Americans. It is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in African-Americans and Hispanics. Because of the incidence and economic burden associated with glaucoma, the vision research and glaucoma patient communities came together to establish the first World Glaucoma Day, which was held on March 6, 2008. As a result of the leadership of the American Glaucoma Society and the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR), the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 981, which recognized the event and supported the NEIís efforts to research the causes of and treatments for glaucoma.

Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) is a 501(c)3 non-profit foundation dedicated to education about the importance of federal funding for eye and vision research. Visit its Web site at www.eyeresearch.org.