A NEW genetic test for glaucoma could could save the sight of millions.
In a new study by Flinders University and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute has found the new test has the ability to identify 15 times more people at high risk of glaucoma than an existing genetic test.
Early diagnosis of glaucoma can lead to vision-saving treatment, and genetic information can potentially lead to early diagnoses and better treatment decisions.
Senior author Jamie Craig, a consulting ophthalmologist who also runs a in world-leading glaucoma research program at Flinders University, said the latest research highlights the potential of the test in glaucoma screening and management.
The latest results benchmarked the performance of genetic testing on 2507 Australian individuals with glaucoma, and 411,337 individuals with or without glaucoma in the UK.
One in 30 Australians - and millions more around the world - will ultimately develop glaucoma, many of whom are diagnosed late due to lack of symptoms.
Once diagnosed, several treatment options can slow or halt the progression of glaucoma vision loss.
The new test, performed on a blood or saliva sample, has the potential to identify high-risk individuals before irreversible vision loss occurs.
Margaret, you're a marvel
Glaucoma Australia volunteer Margaret Tanner recently celebrated her 101st birthday and marked nearly two decades of volunteering with the charity.
Having been diagnosed with glaucoma and supported by Glaucoma Australia, Margaret began volunteering in 2002 to give back and support the glaucoma community.
Before Covid-19, she was a weekly volunteer at Glaucoma Australia's office in Sydney, where she assisted with projects to help the charity's fundraising and education efforts, including organising newsletter mail-outs, merchandise orders, Christmas cards. She also mailed patient information material to eye care practitioners.
"The type of work I do whilst volunteering, and the people I meet are the reasons I continue to support Glaucoma Australia," Margaret said.
"The weekly visits to their offices are like a social outing for me, and I've made some long-lasting friendships from it. It's comforting knowing the work I do helps support people like myself who are living with glaucoma."
It is estimated more than 300,000 Australians have glaucoma, yet half don't know it, thinking they have healthy eyes.
This is because it develops slowly and often without any symptoms, leaving people undetected until the disease reaches an advanced stage. Left untreated, glaucoma causes irreversible vision loss.
Glaucoma Australia provides free sight-saving education and support to nearly 20,000 people diagnosed with glaucoma and their families.
It promotes the importance of early detection and helps people with glaucoma understand and adhere to their treatment management plan so they can prevent vision loss and maintain their quality of life well into the future.
Margaret is a popular figure at Glaucoma Australia. "Our team absolutely love having Margaret volunteer with us," said chief executive Annie Gibbins says.
"With her nearly two decades of experience at Glaucoma Australia alone, her passion for the work she does goes without saying.
"The possibility of losing sight is an everyday reality for people with glaucoma.
"Having first-hand experience with this disease, Margaret has valuable insight she shares with our team, whilst ensuring the work she does is delivered with utmost care to support our community."
There are many ways to volunteer at Glaucoma Australia, from helping with mail-outs and newsletters, co-ordinating support groups, preparing merchandise orders, to providing clinical expertise to patients, or applying corporate skills to business projects.