Wednesday 22 November 2017

Glaucoma: A quarter of a million people risking their sight

NEW YORK - JUNE 19: Melvin
NEW YORK - JUNE 19: Melvin "Little Mel" Bennett is checked for glaucoma by an eye doctor from the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital at a health fair June 19, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Dozens of health care providers, wellness programs and disease prevention services from across the borough participated in the fair providing free information and screenings. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Glaucoma is the world’s second largest cause of unnecessary blindness. It is estimated that the numbers of people who will go blind because of the condition will increase by 27% worldwide by 2020*.

With its reputation as the ‘silent vision killer’, glaucoma slowly destroys eyesight through raised pressure within the eyeball.

Sufferers experience no discomfort, which means that significant and lasting damage can occur before they notice any problems.

Those aged over 40 are particularly at risk but, if diagnosed early, the condition can be managed effectively

Paul Carroll, Specsavers Director of Professional Services says: "Regular eye examinations, at least every two years, are crucial to detect early signs of the disease as people can lose up to 40% of their sight before they even realise they have a problem, due to no early symptoms being noticed."

"Left undetected, glaucoma can cause blindness, but it is treatable and the progression of the disease can be controlled and even prevented if diagnosed early enough."

Mr Carroll continues: "Increasing age is a risk factor for glaucoma and it is also a hereditary condition. We want to make people aware that if they are aged over 40 or have a family history of glaucoma then they are at an increased risk of developing the disease and should have a regular eye examination."

"Other risk factors include short-sightedness, if people are of Afro-Caribbean descent or have other medical conditions such as diabetes, poor circulation, migraine headaches or past eye injuries."

Glaucoma is the general term used to describe damage to the optic nerve, most commonly caused by increased pressure in the eye when the fluid within the eye, called aqueous humour, is unable to drain away properly.

Some types develop gradually and the sufferer is often unaware of any problem until it is quite severe. Without a regular eye examination the sufferer may find it is too late for treatment.

If the disease is not treated damage can progress causing a loss of peripheral vision and eventually complete loss of vision.

* The International Glaucoma Association

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