Keep and eye out for glaucoma
Tuesday, 11th April, 2017
TENS OF thousands of Aussies have a "sneaky" disease which causes blindness and do not know it.
With around 150,000 Australians facing preventable blindness due to undiagnosed glaucoma, the country's peak professional body for optometrists is urging people to get their eyes tested.
Glaucoma is a condition of increased pressure within the eyeball, causing gradual loss of sight.
Optometry Australia optometrist Luke Arundel said glaucoma is one of the "sneaky" conditions that can progress undetected without a check-up until significant amounts of vision are irreversibly lost.
"What we're finding is that the motivation for getting an eye test often only comes when changes to vision are noted," he said.
"In some cases, that's shutting the gate after the horse has bolted."
In Australia more than 300,000 people have the condition, but only half of them have been diagnosed according to Glaucoma Australia.
"It's an invisible, painless disease which affects our side vision, and because it often occurs in one eye first many people do not notice it in the early stages, as their good eye compensates for the vision loss in the other eye," said Mr Arundel.
"The sad truth is that a lot of Australians are out there undiagnosed right now.
"Because it's nerve damage, there's no getting it back. But if we pick it up early, we can stop you losing more vision or stop you from going blind, so of course the earlier detection is made the better."
He said age and family history are the biggest risk factors for the eye condition.
According to National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines, glaucoma prevalence is four to 10 times higher in people aged 60 years or older, compared to people in their 40s.
Relatives of glaucoma patients have a 10-fold increased risk of developing the disease.
National guidelines encourage every Australian over the age of 50 to get a comprehensive eye examination to test for the early signs of glaucoma.