HUNDREDS of people in Torbay are at risk of having their vision stolen by a condition often dubbed as the ‘silent thief of sight’.
An estimated 1,860 Torbay residents are in danger of going blind from glaucoma – one of the largest causes of blindness in the world – due to its gradual onset. That is why during this week’s Glaucoma Awareness Week (June 17-23), Specsavers in Torquay is highlighting the importance of looking after our eyes.
Glaucoma usually occurs when naturally-occurring fluid inside the eye does not drain properly, leading to a build-up of pressure. This can then cause damage to the optic nerve and nerve fibres from the retina, in most cases without any symptoms. While the condition cannot be reversed, it can be managed – but early detection is key.
Simon Simmonds, the stores’ ophthalmic director, said: ‘There are several factors which can increase your risk of developing glaucoma, such as a family history of the disease.
‘Other risk factors would include those who have black-African or Asian heritage as well as those who have higher levels of short sightedness.
‘Of course, age also needs to be considered, because two in every 100 people over the age of 40 are affected with the condition.’
More than 64 million people around the world live with glaucoma – but as long as you are sensible, you don’t need to let it take over your life.
Simon adds: ‘The good news is that glaucoma can generally be treated effectively if detected early, and in most cases, daily eye drops are used.
‘Symptoms can vary depending on what type of glaucoma you have – either chronic or acute. Many don’t realise there is anything wrong with their sight, which is why regular visits to the optician are essential.
‘With the most common form of glaucoma, visual loss is initially very subtle, affecting mainly the peripheral vision rather than central, which can make it harder to notice. Most people are not even aware there is any visual loss because of the way the eyes’ visual fields overlap to compensate for one another.
‘Some forms of glaucoma are more rapid with a sudden painful build-up of pressure in the eye, which produces blurred vision and haloes around lights, but they are less common.’
It is vitally important people attend regular check-ups at their optician to check for any signs. Staff will test eye pressure, because high pressure is a common sign of glaucoma, and they’ll do a visual field test which can detect any subtle blind spots that patients may not be aware of, which can also be an indicator of the condition.
Karen Osborn, Chief Executive of the International Glaucoma Association, said: ‘We regularly hear from people who have permanently lost sight to glaucoma because of late diagnosis. People are often angry and upset to learn that simple regular visits to their local high street optometrist could have detected the condition.
‘The earlier treatment starts, the more likely that someone will retain useful sight for life, so it’s great that so many Specsavers stores are on board with Awareness Week.’