Being an Optometrist, I couldn’t really let National Glaucoma Awareness Week (6-13 June 2011) go by without a mention could I? The aim being both (as it says on the tin) to raise awareness of Glaucoma, but more importantly (to my mind at least, since glaucoma is one amongst a plethora of ocular nasties) to encourage everyone to go for a regular eye examinations. Whilst the recommended interval between eye examinations varies depending on age and other risk factors, 2 years is the recommendation for healthy adults.
What is Glaucoma?
Well, there are in fact several different types of glaucoma, but the most common is Primary Open Angle Glaucoma. In its simplest form, the pressure inside the eye gets too high and damages the nerves, which in turn leads to visual field loss – little blind spots within your field of vision, if you will.
Why is it nasty?
There are no symptoms until the end-stages of the disease, by which point considerable irreversible sight loss has occurred. I vividly recall, as a trainee, hearing an Ophthalmologist tell a patient “Glaucoma isn’t such a bad thing to have you know….provided you know you’ve got it”. Early detection and treatment is the key.
How is it detected?
Have an eye examination. Simples. Remember, there are no symptoms of POAG until end-stage. You need an Optometrist to detect it for you.
Am I at risk?
Glaucoma can happen randomly without any discernible rhyme or reason, but you are at increased risk of glaucoma if:
- You are over 40
- You are short-sighted
- You are diabetic
- You are of African-Caribbean descent
- You have an immediate blood relative with glaucoma
As some patients fail to understand this last I will clarify: it does not mean your spouse. Unless you married your brother in which case I frankly have greater concerns than glaucoma.
But I can see just fine!
That doesn’t mean you don’t have glaucoma. Glaucoma is sneaksy:
- Glaucoma initially destroys your off-centre vision, leaving the central detailed vision unaffected until end-stage
- Blank patches in the field of vision may go unnoticed as the less affected eye wallpapers over the gaps
- Glaucoma does not affect the ability of the eye to focus and the condition may be present even though vision seems fine and specs aren’t needed.
- You could lose up to 40% of your sight irretrievably before you are aware of any problem
So don’t be a statistic. Run along and book an eye examination, that’s a good chap(ette).