June 12th kicks of National Glaucoma Awareness Week, supported by the International Glaucoma Association (IGA). The goal is to increase general awareness of Glaucoma and the need for regular eye exams. Glaucoma is known as the ‘silent thief of sight’ because it gradually damages the optic nerve and if untreated can eventually lead to vision loss. One of the reasons the IGA wants to increase the awareness of Glaucoma as the disease has no early warning signs or symptoms, which means that main means of detection is through regular eye exams. For many, by the time they have symptoms, it is too late to reverse the vision loss. This means that early detection is the key to treating Glaucoma. There is unfortunately no cure yet for Glaucoma.
The slogan for Glaucoma Awareness Week is ‘BIG’, which stands for Beat Invisible Glaucoma. According to the IGA, Glaucoma affects about 600,000 people in the UK and more than 64 million people worldwide. It is the leading cause of vision loss in the world. Because of this, the Glaucoma Awareness Week is looking to have everyone get regular eye exams.
Basically, everyone is at risk for Glaucoma. However, people over 40 are in a higher risk category. And within this category, men over 40 are especially at high risk, because they are less likely to go for health check-ups or eye exams. Before the age of 40, it is recommended that you should have an eye exam every two to four years. Between the ages of 40 and 55, every one to three years and between the ages of 55 and 65 every one to two years. Those older than 65 should have an eye exam every 12 months. The IGA believes that those who are diagnosed with Glaucoma make up a roughly half of the people who actually have Glaucoma, this is a staggering number. That is why the Glaucoma Awareness Week is so important.
Because there is no cure yet for Glaucoma, early detection and treatment is important. It is imperative to keep in mind that vision lost cannot be recovered. There are currently five tests that are needed to detect Glaucoma:
- Pachymetry – checking the thickness of the cornea
- Tonometry – checking the inner eye pressure
- Perimetry – checking the field of vision
- Ophthalmoscopy – checking the shape and colour of the optic nerve, this requires dilating the eye
- Gonioscopy – checking the angle at which the iris meets the cornea
Although this seems like a lot of tests, these five eye tests are vital, because it is actually quite difficult to detect Glaucoma. Just one of these tests alone is not enough to diagnose the disease. Also, the results of the tests will determine the type of Glaucoma you have and the correct course of treatment.
In fact, there are several types of Glaucoma and it is important for your doctor to determine which type you have. The most common form is the Primary Open Angle Glaucoma. This happens when the inner eye pressure increases due to clogging of the drainage canals in the eye. Most people have no symptoms, because the vision loss associated with this type of Glaucoma is very gradual and can happen over many years. But if diagnosed, this type of Glaucoma responds well to medication.
The bottom line is everyone should have regular eye exams!