World Glaucoma Week – Have your eyes tested

This week is World Glaucoma Week and ER24 is urging people to have their eyes tested.Glaucoma is one of the world’s leading causes of blindness. It is not curable, but blindness is preventable if glaucoma is diagnosed and treated early enough.

While there are usually no warning signs, regular eye tests will help detect the onset of the disease.

Explaining what glaucoma is, Dr James Beatty, who practises in Goodwood and Somerset West and operates at the Cape Eye Hospital and the Somerset Eye Centre, said, “Glaucoma is characterised by loss of vision due to damage of the optic nerve.

“The optic nerve carries sight images to the brain and any damage to the nerve results in damage to sight. Usually, but not always, the damage occurs because pressure within the eye increases and presses on the nerve, which damages it.”

Types of glaucoma:

  • Chronic (primary open angle) glaucoma – This is the most common form of glaucoma. It usually affects both eyes and develops slowly. Loss of sight is gradual. There is no pain or redness of the eye or dramatic change in vision.
  • Acute (angle closure) glaucoma – There is a sudden increase in the pressure within one eye. The eye becomes red and painful. Often there is mistiness of vision and episodes of seeing haloes around lights.
  • Congenital (buphthalmos) glaucoma – A condition where glaucoma is present from birth. An increase in the pressure within the eye causes it to enlarge.
  • Secondary glaucoma – Other diseases of the eye cause a rise in the pressure within the eye. This group of conditions is called secondary glaucoma.

“Many people develop glaucoma as they get older. It seems to be part of the natural ageing process. However, some groups of people are known to be at more risk,” said Dr Beatty.

Groups include relatives of someone diagnosed with glaucoma, particularly siblings, as well as people with severe short-sightedness.

“Patients with glaucoma rarely lose their sight completely. Providing you receive the correct treatment, use the drops or medication as prescribed, and attend your follow-up appointments and checks, the risk of sight loss should be minimised.

“Drops, tablets and sometimes operations can stabilise the glaucoma, and, with regular check-ups, you will be able to manage the condition. Any sight you have lost you will not regain, however, there is help and information available for people who have lost their sight through glaucoma,” said Dr Beatty.

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