FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Jan. 23, 2014) -- Today, about 2.7 million people are living with glaucoma, an eye disease that limits vision and can often leave a person blind.

Those numbers, according to the National Eye Institute, are expected to rise to a projected 6.3 million in 2050.

As the second leading cause of blindness, behind cataracts, glaucoma can occur under normal or elevated fluid pressure in the eyes. The disease can be treated through eye drops and even surgery. Taking preventive measures, such as having regular eye exams, can help catch the disease early before it affects a person's vision.

"Adults ages 40 and above, minorities and those with a Family history of glaucoma or diabetes are most at risk for the disease," said Capt. Bret Lehman, optometrist at Lyster Army Health Clinic, or LAHC, on Fort Rucker, Ala.

A comprehensive eye exam should be done every one to two years, he said.

"Risk factors for glaucoma include age, Family history, hypertension, diabetes and race," Lehman said. "The risk of developing glaucoma is four to five times greater among African Americans."

The optometry clinic staff at LAHC can evaluate the health of your eyes and detect chronic and suspect diseases such as glaucoma and other eye diseases related to diabetes and hypertension, he said.

"Although glaucoma cannot be prevented, it can be treated and controlled if diagnosed early," he said. "Treatment usually begins with eye drops and follow-up eye exams to determine the severity of the disease."

In 2012, the most recent year studies were done on glaucoma in Alabama, 46,778 people were diagnosed with the disease, according to the Vision Problems in the U.S. Database compiled by Prevent Blindness America.

TRICARE Prime patients enrolled to Lyster who are 64 years old and younger may make eye exam appointments by calling 255-7000 or 255-7185.