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Glaucoma The Sneak Thief of Sight!

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Glaucoma The Sneak Thief of Sight!

glaucoma

WITH THE EYE CENTRE - PRIMECARE

Glaucoma is often referred to as the silent thief of sight. Most people experience no symptoms until late in the disease – the damage occurs slowly and progressively, getting worse over a long period of time.

An estimated 91,000 New Zealanders over the age of 40 currently have glaucoma.

What concerns health professionals is that with early detection, blindness from glaucoma is preventable. A glaucoma eye examination can pick up the disease very early and appropriate treatment can halt its progression and preserve sight.

It is estimated around 50% of New Zealanders with the disease, don’t know they have it. With the population ageing, and people living longer, more New Zealanders face the possibility of developing glaucoma. The key message for all New Zealanders revolves around early detection of the disease to prevent blindness.

In glaucoma the optic nerve, which carries visual information to the brain, is damaged. Vision loss due to glaucoma cannot be restored. The good news is that with early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, the sneak thief of sight can be arrested. You can save yourself from further sight loss.

Glaucoma NZ recommends having an eye examination for glaucoma every five years from the age of 45 and every three years from the age of 60. However, at any age, if you notice changes in your eyesight, then you should have your eyes examined at that time. In addition, if you have risk factors for glaucoma, such as family history, then you may need your eyes checked more frequently.

There is no cure – once sight is lost you can’t get it back. That’s why it’s so important to pick it up early so treatment can stop its progression. If glaucoma is detected, ongoing treatment, and compliance, is vital. 98% of those who comply with their prescribed treatment for glaucoma will not go blind. That could mean putting in the eye drops every day for the rest of their lives. But it’s a simple thing to do to save precious sight.

Research shows one of the things people fear most in life is going blind. It’s right up there with cancer and heart disease, probably due to the devastating effect blindness can have on quality of life. Studies have shown sight loss is likely to lead to depression, as well as accidents in the home, sometimes resulting in hospitalisation. Then there are the day-to-day changes like the loss of a driver’s license, or the ability to read, watch movies, or see grandchildren grow up.

Risk Factors

  • If glaucoma runs in your family, you are 10 times more likely to develop the disease.
  • Glaucoma New Zealand advises even young people to talk to older family members about the disease. If they can recall anybody in the family using eye drops on a regular basis, this may indicate they were treating glaucoma.
  • Other factors that increase your risk of getting glaucoma include being over the age of 60, short-sightedness (myopia), and a previous eye injury.

Glaucoma New Zealand is a charitable trust, set up to eliminate blindness from glaucoma in New Zealanders. The trust provides free nationwide educational resources, public meetings, and support to those with glaucoma and their families. An important part of their work is ongoing education for health professionals. The Trust also contributes to glaucoma research in New Zealand.

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