IT MAY surprise readers that glaucoma is one of the biggest causes of blindness in the world, affecting some 80 million people worldwide.
Worryingly, many don’t even realise they have it because of the gradual onset of the condition.
With World Glaucoma Week upon us (March 6 to 12), Specsavers Ópticas is trying to raise awareness on this common eye condition, known as the ‘silent thief’, by sharing some unusual facts and insights with Olive Press readers.
With glaucoma having no typical symptoms as such, it’s important to understand what the condition is before anyone starts to worry.
Lisa James, store director of Specsavers Ópticas Guardamar says: ‘Glaucoma occurs when naturally-occurring fluid inside the eye does not drain properly, causing a build-up of pressure.
“The condition often affects both eyes, usually to varying degrees, however, there are two types – chronic glaucoma which develops slowly with subtle changes to your vision, and acute glaucoma which develops rapidly with a sudden, painful build-up of pressure in the eye.”
Coffee and exercise
While caffeine can raise eye pressure, studies indicate that regular exercise can lower it. While there is no evidence to prove this can directly prevent glaucoma, it does support overall eye health and that can only be a good thing.
Glaucoma strikes earlier and progresses faster in men and women of black-African or black-Caribbean origin and occurs about five times more often.
The risk of glaucoma is 20% higher if the disease is in your family and blindness is about six times more common.
Lisa continued: ‘There are several factors which could make you more at risk of developing glaucoma such as family history of the disease. Those who have black–African heritage or who have higher levels of short sightedness are also more at risk.
Your age also plays a big part. Two in every 100 people over 40 are affected by the condition.
What many people don’t know is that smoking can have a detrimental impact on our eyes, it can cause a plethora of complications and even increase the risk of glaucoma.
While there is no evidence that smoking itself is a risk factor for glaucomatous damage, older smokers do have a higher risk of developing increased eye pressure compared to non-smokers.
Celebs with glaucoma
There are many high-profile stars who live with the condition. U2 singer Bono revealed in 2014 that he has had glaucoma for 20 years and is receiving ongoing treatment.
Astronaut John Glenn nearly lost his sight to it and campaigned in the early 00s, urging people to get regular eye tests.
Other celebrities known to have had glaucoma are Whoopi Goldberg and Dame Maggie Smith.
Testing for glaucoma
Lisa explains why it is important to check regularly for glaucoma and how it’s done.
“If you have chronic glaucoma, it can take a long time before you realise you have a problem with your eyesight,” she said.
Continuing: “This is because chronic glaucoma is painless and usually damages the outer edge of the vision and works slowly inwards. Without regular checks you may not notice a problem until the glaucoma is near the centre of your vision.”
However, it is not just measuring the pressure in the eye that allows us to detect possible early changes due to glaucoma, often these changes occur before the pressure in the eye is significantly raised.
It is with careful examination of the optic nerve head using a powerful lens that allows opticians a 3D view of the inside of the eye that we can spot early changes.
It is then, when we combine our pressure readings along with the appearance of the nerve head and any loss of peripheral vision that we may find when we carry out a visual field test, that we can assess the need for further investigation by an ophthalmologist.
The pressure measurement alone is not enough to detect early glaucoma.
Many cases would be missed if this was the only test that was used, much of the damage caused happens before the pressure rises significantly which is why a full and complete eye examination is so important in early detection of glaucoma and other eye conditions.’
There are Specsavers Ópticas stores in Santa Ponça in Mallorca, Marbella and Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol and Javea, Calpe, Benidorm, Torrevieja, Guardamar and La Zenia on the Costa Blanca.
For more information or to request an appointment at your local store, visit www.specsavers.es
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