07 March, 2018
Glaucoma, an eye disease that affects approximately 300,000 Australians can surprise people as in its early stages it is painless and symptomless. It is estimated that in Australia 50% of the affected people are unaware that they have the disease.
In this article we will learn more about glaucoma, its diagnosis, symptoms, how it can affect the vision, major risk factors and the importance of regular eye examinations.
According to Glaucoma Australia, “Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases where vision is lost due to damage to the optic nerve”.
Glaucoma can only be detected through comprehensive eyes exams. It is a disease that cannot be self-detected, in fact, many people affected by glaucoma may not even be aware of any vision loss. According to Glaucoma Australia, approximately 300,000 Australians have glaucoma and about 50% of people with glaucoma remain undetected.
Generally, there are no symptoms or warning signs in the early stages of this eye condition. The loss of sight is usually gradual and a considerable amount of peripheral (side) vision may be lost before there is an awareness of any problem.
Once the nerve fibres have been damaged the loss of vision cannot be restored, however, treatment may slow down and/or interrupt the damage process. For that reason, regular eye exams are crucial and play an extremely important, if not the most important role in early detection, prevention and treatment of glaucoma.
It is important to remember that although glaucoma is likely to develop as we get older, people at any age can be affected by the disease. Those who are first degree relatives of people with glaucoma have an up to 10-fold increased risk of developing it, therefore, anyone from age 40 with a family history of glaucoma, or age 50 with no family history, should make an appointment for a comprehensive eye examination with an optometrist.
Although there are different types of the disease, the most common type of glaucoma, accounting for 90% of the cases, is Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma (POAG). With no warning signs in its early stages, POAG progresses slowly and damages the vision gradually, starting with peripheral vision. As the other eye tends to compensate for the initial vision loss, early signs can often go undetected and signs of glaucoma may only be noticed by the patient when a significant amount of nerve fibres have been permanently damaged.
For more information visit Glaucoma Australia at https://www.glaucoma.org.au/
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