Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in New Zealand, and carries the nickname ‘the silent thief of sight’ due to the fact it to attacks vision slowly and without warning. Even worse, as many as 50% of those with glaucoma don’t know they have it.
“Glaucoma is a hidden eye condition which develops slowly over time. It initially affects only your peripheral vision rather than your central focus, and you may not know you have it until it reaches an advanced stage. Early diagnosis and treatment are the best ways to combat it – that’s why we encourage regular eye examinations to all of our patients”
Who is at risk of glaucoma?
“Anyone can develop glaucoma, but the majority of those who do tend to be over the age of 40. The likelihood of developing glaucoma increases as you get older, and it is also more common in people who have a family history of the condition. Everyone should have their eyes examined regularly, but this becomes even more important once you turn 40”.
What exactly is the condition?
“Glaucoma occurs when there is damage to the optic nerve. In a healthy person the optic nerve sends messages between the eye and brain, enabling us to see. Sometimes, however, the nerve becomes unable to cope with the pressure within the eyeball. This can be due to a natural weakness in the nerve, or occasionally it follows an injury to the eye. Slowly, the effectiveness of those vital messages from the eye to the brain declines.”
Are there any ways to tell if someone’s got it?
“Well, there are often no symptoms in the early stages of glaucoma, so people may already have the disorder but not be aware of it. Often, permanent and irreversible damage can occur before any symptoms appear. But things to watch out for are blurred vision, seeing coloured ‘halo’ rings around lights, losing your side vision, or painful and red eyes. If you experience any of these, call us immediately. Early diagnosis is the best way to safeguard against the damaging effects of glaucoma.”