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Baseball Legend Pushes For Glaucoma Awareness

Most sports fans think of Kirby Puckett as a baseball hero, the Minnesota Twin who led his team to two World Series victories and played on the American League All-Stars team for 10 consecutive years.

Today Puckett is a different kind of hero. Since retiring in 1996 because of vision loss from glaucoma in his right eye, he has been helping people everywhere save their eyesight. Puckett visited The Early Show on May 31 to talk about glaucoma and launch the new "Know Your Eye Pressure" campaign.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that, left untreated, can lead to blindness. The common features of glaucoma can include too much fluid pressure in the eye, damage in the optic nerve area and visual field loss.

Puckett says he had no idea that he had glaucoma until it was too late. "I was pretty much healthy my whole career and I woke up that one morning, I was leaving to go to the ballpark, and I couldn't see out of my right eye. And so I thought that I slept on it wrong or something, and before you know it, the next thing I know, I'll be blind for the rest of my life," he says.

On that first day, Puckett says, the vision in his right eye was cloudy at first, but as the day progressed his sight in that eye completely disappeared.

Puckett's glaucoma is hereditary--an older brother also has it, and their father had glaucoma too. "That's what you have to watch out for. If you have any family history of glaucoma you should definitely get checked."

Having an eye checkup including a glaucoma screening to test eye pressure can save vision. "There's three million Americans walking around with it right now that don't even know they have it, and that's the scariest thing of all," Puckett says. "Glaucoma's very, very treatable if it's caught in the early stages. In my case, it was too late."

Glaucoma Progression

  • Often, there are no early warning signs. A person with glaucoma may have normal vision and feel no pain.

  • People may notice that although they see things clearly in front of them, they miss objects to the side and out of the corner of their eye.

  • Without treatment, people with glaucoma may find that they suddenly have no side vision. It may seem as though they are looking through a tunnel.

  • Over time, the remaining forward vision may decrease until there is no vision left.

Warning Signs

  • intense pain, which may result in nausea and vomiting

  • red eye(s)

  • swollen or cloudy cornea(s)

  • halos around lights (rainbow-colored rings around lights)

  • recurrent blurry vision

  • frequent morning headaches

  • pain around eyes after watching TV or leaving a dark theater

Risk Factors

  • African-Americans over 40 years old

  • others over 60 years old

  • relatives of people with glaucoma

  • diabetics

  • people who are very nearsighted

  • preious eye injury

  • high blood pressure

  • regular, long-term steroid/cortisone use

More Glaucoma Facts

  • Glaucoma impacts people of all ages, from babies to older adults.

  • An estimated 3 million Americans, age 40 and over, have glaucoma.

  • By the year 2000, it is estimated that nearly 67 million people worldwide will have glaucoma.

  • Untreated, glaucoma is the second leading cause of vision loss in the world.

  • Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African-Americans and a leading cause of blindness in all adults over 60 years old.

  • Blindness from glaucoma is 6 to 8 times more likely to occur in Blacks, and blindness occurs 10 years earlier than on average.

  • It is estimated that as many as 120,000 Americans are now blind from glaucoma.

  • Vision loss and blindness due to glaucoma is still permanent.

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