An article in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association urges black people, particularly those who are nearsighted, to be tested for glaucoma.

According to Dr. Robert Ritch, blacks who suffer from myopia are 30 times more likely than others to contract glaucoma, while the black population in general is seven times more likely than whites to be afflicted. Ritch, chief of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary's glaucoma service, attributes those numbers to a larger optic nerve head in blacks than in whites.When doctors look for glaucoma, they are checking for elevated pressure in the eye that causes the condition and, which left untreated, can lead to blindness.

"Glaucoma is as prevalent as diabetes," says Ritch. "About two million people suffer from glaucoma and only half of them know they have it."