World Glaucoma Week 2020 – 8-14 March
World Glaucoma Week is upon us so what better time to talk about this common condition, affecting over 300,000 Australians.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a progressive eye disease, where the optic nerve in the eye becomes damaged. There could be a build-up of fluid, and this may result in increased pressure on the optic nerve. This pressure then causes optic nerve damage, and may lead to blindness. It develops slowly, and often without symptoms, so those who have it may not even realise until the disease reaches an advanced stage.
In fact, while it is estimated that around 300,000 Australians have glaucoma, around half of those are undiagnosed, and therefore untreated.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness and because it develops quite slowly, it is imperative that every Australian has a regular eye test to detect and treat any signs of the disease as early as possible. Once detected, treatment can delay or even stop the progression of the disease, but it can’t restore sight already lost before diagnosis.
Will I get glaucoma?
Anyone could develop glaucoma, but you are 10 times more likely to have glaucoma if a close family member has it as well. This genetic predisposition means it is quite important to know as much as you can about the eye health of your blood relatives, so you can pass this information on to your optometrist in your consultation.
You are also more likely to suffer from glaucoma if you are of Asian or African descent, are older, have other medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, or have had prolonged use of corticosteroids.
What should I do?
There are a few things you can do to minimise your risks for developing glaucoma.
Lead a healthy lifestyle – By reducing your risk of other conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, and just be taking care of your health in general, you’ll lower your risk of developing glaucoma as well.
Ask questions – Talk to your family, in particular your closest blood relatives and ask them if they have a history of glaucoma. If they don’t know, encourage them to have an eye test as well – remember if a genetic relative has it, there’s a much higher chance that you have it too. On the flipside, if you find out you do suffer from glaucoma, be sure to let your relatives know so they can take measures to protect their own eye health as well.
Book an eye test – As we’ve mentioned above, glaucoma progresses slowly, so you may not notice any changes in your vision until the disease is well-advanced. Regular eye tests with an optometrist are the only way to ensure early detection and treatment. At Eyecare Plus Ashgrove, we are also lucky enough to be one of the few optometrists in South East Queensland to have Optos ultra-widefield retinal imaging. Our Optos machine provides an extremely detailed image of the eye, helping us to pick up any sign of glaucoma (and many other conditions) far earlier than standard tests allow. There is a small additional charge for this test ($49) – ask us when you come in for your appointment.
Is there a cure?
There is no cure for glaucoma, but once detected, treatment may slow or halt the progression of the disease. Treatment options vary depending on your individual circumstances but could include the use of eye drops, oral medication or laser surgery. Your optometrist will advise on the best course of treatment once diagnosis is established.
What do I do next?
Book in your eye test and talk to your relatives about their own experiences with glaucoma to help establish your genetic disposition.
Take the time during World Glaucoma Week to find out more about glaucoma.