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News Release

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For Immediate Release

Give the Gift of Sight on Mother's Day
Lions Clubs International Foundation and Women's Eye Health.org
promote eye health for women

Oak Brook, Illinois, USA, May 1, 2008 -- Seventy percent of all legally blind Americans are women. Lions Clubs International Foundation and Women's Eye Health.org are launching an eye health campaign around Mother's Day, May 11, to increase public awareness among all people, especially women.

Lions Clubs International Foundation and Women's Eye Health.org have produced a number of public service announcements and other educational materials to elevate the issue nationally. They are also launching a national radio tour on May 8. Eye expert Dr. Janine Smith of the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health and member of the WEH Executive Committee will answer questions from a national audience.

To protect their vision and the vision of their families, women are encouraged to maintain a healthy weight and diet. Smoking can also have negative impact on the health of the eye. Women must also be aware of early symptoms of eye diseases, particularly those to which they may be most susceptible (because of gender, age, or family background). However, it is important to note that many of the most common eye diseases, such as glaucoma and diabetic eye diseases, do not have early warning signs. Therefore, women should get regular, comprehensive, age-appropriate eye examinations for themselves and for their families from an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

"As scientists, we don't yet know all the factors involved in these high rates of eye disease in women," says Ilene Gipson, Ph.D., Professor of Ophthalmology, Schepens Eye Research Institute, Harvard Medical School and WEH.org Executive Committee Chair. "Certainly greater longevity among women accounts for part of the problem. Other factors may include nutrition and environment. Although we don't have all the answers, we do know that many eye diseases are preventable and treatable," she says.

Most of the serious blinding eye diseases -- glaucoma, cataracts and problems with the retina due to diabetes and macular degeneration -- increase in prevalence with age. The average life expectancy is now 80 years for women, six more years than men. These extra years translate into a greater chance of acquiring one or more of these common, sight-threatening diseases.

An important example of this is age-related macular degeneration, referred to as AMD, now the leading cause of legal blindness in the United States. Although there is no cure for AMD, smoking, diet and genetics appear to be contributing factors.

Lions have also created the Lions Eye Health Program, a community-based education program that allows Lions clubs, other community organizations, and individuals to promote healthy vision and raise awareness of the causes of preventable vision loss. The mission of LEHP is to empower communities to save sight through the early detection and timely treatment of glaucoma and diabetic eye disease, encourage those at risk to undergo a dilated eye exam, and educate those with low vision and their caregivers about the condition.

"Lions have long been champions of sight. Through increased awareness, we can end preventable blindness," said LCIF Chairperson Jimmy Ross.

Therefore, on this Mother's Day, make sure to encourage all the women in your family to get a comprehensive eye exam. Even better yet, schedule appointments for your whole family.

Additional materials are available on LCIF's Web site and also online at www.womenseyehealth.org.

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Lions Clubs International Foundation is the charitable arm of Lions Clubs International, the largest service club organization in the world with nearly 1.35 million members in 206 geographic areas and countries. LCIF was ranked by a Financial Times' study as the number one non-governmental organization with which to partner. Established in 1968, LCIF has been involved with blindness prevention and treatment for more than 15 years through the SightFirst program. Learn more about LCIF and Campaign SightFirst II efforts by visiting www.lcif.org.

The mission of Women's Eye Health.org is to educate people on eye diseases that are more prevalent in women. A group of researchers at the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston joined forces with colleagues from around the U.S. and the world to form the Women's Eye Health.org (WEH.org). Women's Eye Health.org was formed as an education, outreach program. Learn more about WEH.org at www.womenseyehealth.org.

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