Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness, with no cure; but early detection can help control its advance.
"Could you read the chart, please?"
"The one on the wall."
For Taylor Klose, 72, those questions are no joke. Klose has been fighting glaucoma for more than 40 years. He talked recently with his brother, NIH MedlinePlus Magazine Coordinator Christopher Klose, about the impact of the disease and how important it is to be diagnosed as early as possible. Four of the six Klose siblings have been diagnosed with glaucoma.
When did you discover you had a problem?
I was diagnosed with extreme nearsightedness in eighth grade, in 1949; but glasses took care of that. Every year, I'd get a new pair, and the world around me would turn clear as a bell. Until I went for my Army physical 10 years later, that is.
As ordered, I closed my right eye to start the eye exam. The doctor said, "Read the chart please." I said, "What chart?" "The one on the wall," he said. "What wall?" I asked! I was losing my field of vision and didn't know it. That's the way glaucoma works, and why it is so important to get tested.
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When were you finally diagnosed with glaucoma?
Not until 1969, after a game of basketball. My right eye was pulsing and there was a halo around the lights. So, I went quickly for an exam and was told, "Mr. Klose, you have severe glaucoma." Since then, I've been through every possible treatment, including some of the first surgeries to relieve the fluid pressure. They worked for a while, but by 1985 I'd lost the sight in my left eye.
And since then?
It was devastating at first, but I hardly notice the left eye is gone now. I still have about half the vision in my right eye, so I can read and get around. But no more ball sports, I'm afraid.
What is your message to our readers?
Get screened! Glaucoma is a silent blinder. Fortunately, most people are never going to get it. But everyone needs to be tested. Especially if they have a family history of it—a parent or grandparent, brother or sister. That's the clarion call.