Glaucoma affects about 1 in 50 of Australia’s population. Did you know that 50% of these people are walking around right now with no idea that it could rob them of their sight? They have never been diagnosed.
They don’t see or feel any problems with their eyes or vision. Could you be one of them?
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, affecting 70 million people with the numbers increasing each year.
Yet 50% of people remain undiagnosed!
This is why glaucoma is often referred to as the thief of sight – by the time you notice symptoms, it’s too late. Over 60% of your vision will be gone permanently. This is because the disease usually starts by damaging peripheral vision first, slowly creeping towards the central vision. The brain is very good at disguising blind spots, tricking the mind into thinking that the vision is normal.
As an optometrist, it is always upsetting having to break the news to someone that they have lost a lot of their vision – especially when it could have been prevented. When a patient has had undiagnosed or untreated glaucoma for years, it often means they can no longer drive – this can be devastating personally, socially and financially.
Is there any good news about Glaucoma?
The good news is, vision loss from glaucoma can be completely prevented if it is caught and treated early. Treatment can be as simple as using an eye drop.
Unlike cataracts or reading glasses, Glaucoma is not a normal part of getting older – it is a disease that needs to be treated to prevent blindness.
Glaucoma damages the optic nerve at the back of the eye – the optic nerve sends visual information from the eye to the brain. Once the nerve is damaged and vision is lost, there is no current treatment that can repair it. But there are many treatments to prevent the damage from happening in the first place – thus it needs to be diagnosed as early as possible.
Are you at a higher risk of getting glaucoma?
These are some of the risk factors that increase the chance of you getting glaucoma:
• Family history of glaucoma – especially parents or siblings
• Short-sightedness or myopia
• Asian or African ethnicity
• Increasing age – from age 30-40 onwards the risk increases with age
• Snoring or sleep apnoea
• High blood pressure – regardless of whether it is treated or not
• Migraine, Raynaud’s phenomenon, or other vascular conditions
• High pressure in the eye (although glaucoma can also develop in eyes with normal pressure)
• Other eye diseases
How to prevent Glaucoma?
Because early glaucoma is symptomless, regular eye tests are so important. For most people, eye tests should be done at least every 2 years, or every 1 year over the age of 65.
A standard eye test should always screen for glaucoma.
Your optometrist will perform an eye pressure check, peripheral vision test, and an assessment of the optic nerve for any suspicious signs.
Extra tests need to be done if there is an increased risk of glaucoma, for example: a more in-depth peripheral vision test, corneal thickness, and OCT scan of the optic nerve (more than just a photo) are essential.
For peace of mind and to ensure you keep seeing well for the rest of your life, make a time to have an eye examination.
Call us on 02 9290 1899 or book an appointment online.