The eye condition glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in New Zealand, with the prevalence increasing to 10% for those of us over the age of 70. Glaucoma can occur in people of all ages however and is more common if someone in our family also has the condition.
Glaucoma causes progressive and irreversible vision loss due to damage to the optic nerve in the back of the eye. Glaucoma is a painless condition and only affects your ability to see details like words and faces after significant nerve damage has occurred. For this reason it is known as the ‘silent thief of sight’ as many people with the condition are unaware of any symptoms.
Early diagnosis is important to limit the damage glaucoma will cause to your vision. A thorough eye check for glaucoma should involve checking a number of factors, including the pressure of the fluid in the eye (the main risk for glaucoma is a higher than normal eye pressure), a 3D inspection of the optic nerve, assessment of the fluid drainage angle in the eye, measurement of corneal thickness, testing of peripheral vision, and a retinal and optic nerve OCT scan to look for early damage to the nerve fibres.
With proper care only 2% of people with glaucoma will go blind in their lifetime. Your optometrist is the best person to visit for a glaucoma check. Some therapeutic optometrists, including our very own Mr Alex Petty, are also accredited to manage and treat glaucoma. If you or someone you know has not had their eyes checked for glaucoma in the last two years arrange a consultation before any potential damage is done.