World Glaucoma Week kicks off today. The term glaucoma encompasses a group of conditions that cause damage to the optic (eye) nerve, which is responsible for sending signals from the eye to the brain. Damage to the optic nerve results in permanent vision loss and if left untreated, glaucoma can result in complete blindness.
If you are over 40, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of glaucoma you are more at risk of getting this disease. Approximately 300,000 Australians are affected by glaucoma and 50% of Australians with glaucoma are undiagnosed. While there are treatments to manage glaucoma, including laser treatment, eye drops and surgery, there is no cure.
Vision Eye Institute ophthalmologist Dr Jason Cheng urges people to get their eyes checked every one or two years. “Unfortunately, the condition is generally quite advanced by the time changes to your eyesight are obvious. In more serious cases, central vision will be affected, and some people may become totally blind”, he says. “Greater awareness and early detection is so important.”
Dr Cheng adds that it is vital people look after their overall health as well. “This means consuming a well-balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise and protecting your eyes from UV light with good-quality sunglasses. And if you notice anything unusual with your vision – even if you can’t explain what it is – get your eyes checked sooner rather than later.”
World Glaucoma Week runs from March 11–17 and aims to promote the need for regular eye and optic nerve checks.