The staff of McFarland Eye Center in Pine Bluff opened its doors to the public Thursday afternoon for free glaucoma screenings intended to catch the warning signs of the disease.

The staff of McFarland Eye Center in Pine Bluff opened its doors to the public Thursday afternoon for free glaucoma screenings intended to catch the warning signs of the disease.

The event also included complimentary blood pressure and blood sugar checks as well as free popcorn and drinks provided by the staff.

Running from noon to 5:30 p.m., the event had already attracted 70 people by 3 p.m., according to McFarland practice administrator Jan Danner.

“We are very excited about it,” Danner said. “It is important to give back. There is not a week that goes by that we don’t have a patient who comes in and didn’t know they had glaucoma.”

Danner said that the most important thing about Thursday’s event was getting as many at risk people as possible into the office to screen them for signs of the disease.

The staff of McFarland decided to offer the free eye screenings because January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, according to Danner.

Danner explained that the danger of the eye disease known as glaucoma is that it has no symptoms to warn of its onset and that it begins at the periphery of a person’s vision before gradually moving toward the center of the eye.

“There are different rates of vision deterioration for each person,” Danner said. “A patient’s eyes are measured for signs of elevated intraocular pressure. If someone has pressure, the doctor looks at the optic nerve for signs of damage.”

Another complication in glaucoma diagnosis and treatment is getting patients to stick with the eye drops that are prescribed to treat the disease, according to Danner.

“People are given the drops but some patients quit taking them either because they say that they sting or that they are too expensive,” Danner said. “Then when they come back in for an appointment they discover that their vision has continued to deteriorate.”

“Glaucoma is more prevalent among African Americans,” Danner said. “Many of the residents of Southeast Arkansas are underserved medically as well.”

“We are very serious about treating this disease,” Danner said.

Neva Daniels of Pine Bluff came in for a screening after seeing a story about the event on KATV Channel 7 earlier in the week.

“I have been having some problems with my eyes,” Daniels said. “Pain behind my eyes and headaches. I saw on a news story that they were going to have this. This is an opportunity for me to see what is going on.”

Charles Yarbough of Pine Bluff was also taking advantage of the free screenings.

“I heard it on the radio and decided that I wanted to get my eyes checked out,” Yarbough said.

McFarland office manager Sheila Fleeman said that the screenings were being provided as a public service.

“We want to make the public aware of glaucoma and its dangers,” Fleeman said. “This is something that Dr. McFarland wanted to do. Education is a big part of it.”

Surgical tech Marsha Brown was glad to be a part of the day.

“I think it’s great,” Brown said. “Some patients don’t have insurance and can’t afford it. This can help save their vision.”

Lisa Brown, an LPN at McFarland, said that the event was an important way to reach at risk members of the community.

“African Americans are more at risk for glaucoma,” Brown said. “We are also checking blood pressure and blood sugar and letting them know if they are too high. Most people have said yes to getting their blood pressure and blood sugar checked.”

Dr. Paul Misischia said that his exam had already found patients in need of further care.

“Any time we can save one person from going blind it’s worth it,” Misischia said. “We have already found three with elevated eye pressure as well as three with elevated blood sugar and one with elevated blood pressure. Events like this are always very beneficial to patients.”