Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world, affecting over 300,000 Australians. In fact, 1 in 8 Australians aged over 80 years will develop glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye condition where vision is lost due to damage to the optic nerve. It is often associated with high eye pressure. People with glaucoma suffer a gradual loss of peripheral vision. There are no early warning signs or symptoms and patients usually do not experience any pain. In fact, very often a significant amount of peripheral or side vision is lost before a person with glaucoma even realises.
Although anyone can develop glaucoma, you may be at a higher risk if you:
- Have a family history of glaucoma. If you have a direct family member who has glaucoma (parent, sibling, or child), you 10 times more likely to develop glaucoma since it is a genetic disease.
- Are over 50 years old
- Are of African or Asian descent
- Have diabetes
- Have myopia (short-sighted)
- Have been on a prolonged course of cortisone (steroid) medication
- Experience migraines
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for glaucoma and vision cannot be regained. However, with early detection and treatment, we can halt or significantly slow down the progress. The only way to detect this condition is with a comprehensive eye examination, including an optic nerve check. The sad fact is, while nine out of 10 Australians say that eyesight is their most valued sense, over 8 million Australians do not have regular eye tests. It is estimated that 50% of those living with glaucoma are undiagnosed.
If you have never been checked for glaucoma and are 35 years or older, please make an appointment to see an optometrist immediately. We urge everyone to book in for an eye examination every two years to ensure that your eyes are functioning properly and remain healthy.
If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, it is very important to follow the treatment plan recommended by your optometrist/ophthalmologist. Eye drops are the most common form of treatment although laser and surgery are also used. Treatment is important to prevent any further loss of sight. If left untreated, glaucoma may lead to blindness.
World Glaucoma Week runs from 10 – 16 March 2019.
*Feature image courtesy: Glaucoma Australia