According to Optegra, the specialist eye hospital group, 43 per cent of Brits would not fix an eyesight problem straight away1
and 41 per cent are putting their eye health at risk by not having an annual eye test2.
Early signs of serious eye conditions such as glaucoma can be detected in this way, which improves the chance of successful treatment.
Throughout National Glaucoma Awareness Week 2015 Optegra Eye Health Care is calling on people to have an eye MOT. An eye test crucially monitors the health of the eye, and can detect signs of glaucoma, including increased pressure which can be a risk factor.
If left untreated glaucoma can lead to damage to vision and ultimately blindness. In fact, it is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the UK3
Brendan Moriarty, glaucoma expert and Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Optegra, said: “Glaucoma is often referred to as the ‘silent thief’ of vision because it is gradual and there are often no symptoms until advanced. Early detection of glaucoma is therefore absolutely vital to prevent unnecessary damage to vision or even blindness.
“It really is as simple as having a bi-annual eye test, or more often if there is high risk of glaucoma, to spot the early warning signs. I find it incredible that so many people fail to have regular eye tests, particularly when you consider what is at stake. The earlier we spot glaucoma, the more we can do to treat it.”
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions in which the optic nerve becomes damaged, usually due to a rise in intra-ocular pressure. If left untreated this damage, (neuropathy), can affect vision and ultimately cause blindness. It is a progressive disease where one eye is usually affected before the other. Treatment can prevent further damage to vision if diagnosis is early enough. The rise in intra-ocular pressure is usually due to blockage of the eye’s drainage in “open-angle glaucoma”, or an inability of the intra-ocular fluid to reach the drainage angle in “closed angle glaucoma”.
Primary open-angle glaucoma
is the most common type, affecting two per cent of 40 year olds and increasing to 10 per cent of 80 year olds. This is a chronic, or slow, condition in which the intra-ocular fluid can get to the drainage angle but the angle becomes blocked, usually as a result of ageing changes.
Other types of glaucoma include:
- Congenital glaucoma - a rare but serious developmental abnormality of the eye.
- Secondary glaucoma - several possible causes including inflammation, trauma, surgery and syndromes such as pigment dispersion and pseudo-exfoliation.
- Primary angle-closure glaucoma (PACG) - Intra-ocular fluid cannot reach the drainage angle because of an anatomical variation in the anterior chamber angle. East Asian and small, hyperopic eyes are more at risk, and women are three times more likely to get PACG.
In most cases, glaucoma has no symptoms in the early stages, which means that significant sight loss can occur if it is not detected and treated.
Early detection through regular eye tests is vital as damage to vision caused by glaucoma cannot be recovered.
According to the International Glaucoma Association, while anyone can develop glaucoma, people at a higher risk include those:
- with a family history of glaucoma
- over the age of 40
- with high intraocular pressure, or pressure inside the eye
- of African-Caribbean origin
- who are very short sighted
- who have diabetes
- who have thin corneas
- who have “vasospastic disorders” such as migraine and Raynauds syndrome
- Who have cardiovascular disease are at higher risk.
Depending on the type and severity of the glaucoma, treatment includes eye drops, glaucoma laser eye surgery or conventional glaucoma surgery. For each, the aim will be the same: to reduce the intra-ocular pressure causing the glaucoma and preserve the vision in your eye as safely and painlessly as possible.
Primary open angle glaucoma, the most common type, is usually treated by using ocular hypotensive drops (drops which reduce intra-ocular fluid production or increase its drainage from the eye). A 30% reduction in ocular pressure is aimed for. Treatment is usually on both eyes and lifelong.
If the target pressure is not achieved, surgery or laser treatment may be required.
1. Optegra research run by Censuswide, an online market research company, to 2,049 UK respondents aged over 18, between the 10th and 16th of December.
2. Research conducted for Optegra by Online Options, with 1,000 adults aged 18 to 60+ in April
3. Stat from the International Glaucoma Association; www.glaucoma-association.com