World Glaucoma Week in March every year is a reminder to get your eyes checked for this hidden disease. Glaucoma Australia says 300,000 Australians have some form of glaucoma and half are undiagnosed. Symptoms do not usually occur until serious damage is done.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve (the nerve of sight) carrying messages from the eye to the brain. This can lead to loss of vision if not detected early. Glaucoma is a common preventable cause of blindness in Australia.
Are you at-risk?
Glaucoma can occur at any age, however the risk increases significantly as you grow older. The NHMRC recommends regular routine eye checks from the age of 50. People with risk factors such as having a family history of glaucoma or being of African descent should be checked earlier, from the age of 40.
If you have a family history of glaucoma you have an 8-times higher risk. Ask if your parents or siblings have glaucoma.
Other risk factors for glaucoma include:
- Short sightedness or eye pressure >21mmHg
- Ongoing use of steroids
- Migraine, eye injury, high blood pressure
How is glaucoma diagnosed?
Glaucoma is detected by a simple check of the optic nerve with an ophthalmoscope (see above). A test of the eye pressure (tonometry) and an assessment of vision may also be done. Early detection of glaucoma is vital as lost vision cannot be recovered.
Treatment to lower the pressure within the eye can usually prevent further deterioration. Eye drops or tablets are usually sufficient, but sometimes laser treatment or surgery is used.
Ask your GP about getting your eyes checked. More information is available from Glaucoma Australia: 1800 500 880 or www.glaucoma.org.au
- Please note this information was correct at time of publication.
- For up to date information, speak to your doctor.