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Glaucoma is one of the top causes of irreversible blindness in people over the age of 60, but it can strike at any age.1 Greater awareness is needed to help people catch and treat it early to save their vision. It is World Glaucoma Week from 8 to 14 March 2020, and Dynamic Vision Optometrists is giving insight into the condition.
In South Africa, the prevalence of glaucoma in people older than 40 years of age is between 4.5% and 5.3%. Worldwide, about seventy million people suffer from glaucoma.2
Glaucoma is a collection of eye conditions that affect the optic nerve. A healthy optic nerve is vital for good vision. As glaucoma progresses over time, the optic nerve suffers irreparable damage, and this can lead to loss of vision and even complete blindness. Glaucoma tends to run in families, but it can also be acquired.
According to Ruahan Naude, CEO at Dynamic Vision, people can lose their peripheral vision quite slowly over a long period and don’t always experience any notable symptoms.
“As glaucoma can progress gradually, patients might not notice any symptoms until the disease is at a mature stage. Any harm caused to the optic nerve is irreversible, and any loss of vision will not be recovered. If your glaucoma is at an advanced stage, the damage is done.”
“This makes it incredibly important to have regular eye exams. These exams should include measurements of eye pressure. If you catch glaucoma early and treat it properly, you can limit the damage to the optic nerve and save your vision.”
“Although a lot of patients don’t have any symptoms or pain, there are a few signs that everyone should look out for when it comes to glaucoma. Signs will differ depending on the stage of the condition as well as the type of glaucoma.”
“There are several types, with open-angle glaucoma being the most common. While it is the most well-known type, most people with this type of glaucoma do not have any symptoms. If symptoms do arise, it is typically when the condition is at an advanced stage,” says Naude.
Some signs include patches or blind spots in your side (peripheral) or central vision, frequently in both eyes, and tunnel vision in the advanced stages.3
“Angle-closure glaucoma is a little more evident in its attack. There will be signs earlier than with open-angle glaucoma, but damage to the optic nerve is usually quicker too,” stresses Naude and urges people to seek medical help fast if they notice any of these signs:
• Seeing halos around lights
• Vision loss
• An eye that looks hazy (particularly in infants)
• Upset stomach or vomiting
• Eye pain
“Glaucoma is very sneaky. The best way to protect your vision from glaucoma is to have regular eye checks. The importance of this cannot be understated. See your optometrist for an eye exam at least once a year, especially if you are over the age of 40. The earlier you catch glaucoma, the better chance you have of saving your vision. If you have glaucoma, you will probably need to be on treatment for the rest of your life.”
He concludes with the reassurance that glaucoma tests are painless and do not take long.
“It is worth the 20-minute visit to your eye doctor.”
1. E, D. K. (2018, 03 20). Want to know the only way to catch vision-killer glaucoma? Go for regular eye check-ups Read more at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/want-to-know-the-only-way-to-catch-vision-killer-glaucoma-go-for-regular-eye-check-ups/articleshow/63375776.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst. Retrieved from Economic Times: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/want-to-know-the-only-way-to-catch-vision-killer-glaucoma-go-for-regular-eye-check-ups/articleshow/63375776.cms?from=mdr
2. A A Stulting, 1. M., & M Labuschagne, 2. M. (2013, 01 01). Glaucoma: The least the general practitioner should know. Retrieved from Continuing medical education: http://www.cmej.org.za/index.php/cmej/article/view/2711/2906
3. Clinic, M. (2020, 02 27). Glaucoma. Retrieved from Mayoclinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20372839
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