Glaucoma: Recognise the risk

People who are at greater risk of developing glaucoma are being encouraged to get their eyes tested in the lead up to World Glaucoma Week.

Glaucoma Australia will launch a new risk awareness campaign in the weeks before World Glaucoma Week (10 – 16 March) aimed at raising awareness of Glaucoma, the leading cause of avoidable blindness in Australia.  It is estimated that it affects over 300,000 Australians with 50% of those living with glaucoma currently undiagnosed.

While nine out of 10 Australians say that sight is their most valued sense, over 8 million Australians are still not having regular eye tests.

Glaucoma Australia CEO Annie Gibbins said “We want to dispel the myth that glaucoma only affects the elderly, which is why we are launching this new risk awareness campaign during World Glaucoma Week. We want to encourage anyone at risk of developing glaucoma to get their eyes tested, especially if you have a family history of glaucoma as you are 10 times more likely to develop glaucoma if you have a direct relative with it.”

If you have a family history of glaucoma, are of Asian or African descent or are over 50, you have a higher risk of developing glaucoma. Other risk factors include diabetes, myopia (nearsighted), prolonged cortisone (steroid) use, migraines, a previous eye injury or eye operation and a history of high or low blood pressure.

“Glaucoma Australia recommends all Australians 50 years or older visit an optometrist every 2 years for a comprehensive eye exam, and if you have a family history of glaucoma or are of Asian or African descent, we recommend you get your eyes checked every 2 years from the age of 40.” Ms Gibbons said.

Glaucoma Australia Optometry Committee Chair, Dr Ben Ashby said, “glaucoma is often nicknamed the ‘silent thief of sight’ because people almost never see it coming. There are no early symptoms for the most common form of glaucoma and before you notice anything unusual with your sight, significant vision may have already been lost forever.

“We want to save people’s sight. A standard eye test with your local optometrist can detect glaucoma before you even know there might be a problem. Ensuring you and your family are checked at least every 2 years is the first step towards eliminating glaucoma blindness in Australia” he said.

Pharmacists are well positioned to be able to advise patients about the risks of Glaucoma, particularly as they can identify patients who are at increased risk.

Although anyone may develop glaucoma, people at higher risk including those who:

  • have a family history of glaucoma
  • have high eye pressure
  • are aged over 50
  • are of African or Asian descent
  • have diabetes
  • have myopia (nearsighted)
  • have been on a prolonged course of cortisone (steroid) medication
  • experience migraines
  • have had an eye operation or eye injury
  • who have a history or high or low blood pressure

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