Despite glaucoma being the world’s leading cause of irreversible blindness, more than 10 million Australians don’t automatically consider having a simple eye test from an optometrist or ophthalmologist, which can save their sight, says Glaucoma Australia (GA). This means they are potentially suffering preventable but irreversible blindness.
The peak Australian glaucoma association, GA says more than 300,000 people have glaucoma, yet only 50 per cent have been diagnosed, typically because they lack noticeable symptoms and haven’t had a simple eye exam.
Anyone may develop glaucoma, but the incidence increases with age. According to GA, about one in 10,000 babies are born with glaucoma, and by age 40, about one in 200 have glaucoma, rising to one in eight at age 80. Overall, the incidence in Australia is about 2.3 per cent of the population.
During World Glaucoma Week (March 11-17) GA is encouraging relatives of those with glaucoma to have a comprehensive eye exam from an optometrist or ophthalmologist every two years from the age of 40.
“Blindness from glaucoma is both tragic and unacceptable, as it is largely preventable and treatable,” GA Ophthalmology Committee Chair Dr Simon Skalicky said.
GA Optometry Committee Chair Dr Ben Ashby said: “If detected and treated early, glaucoma blindness can be avoided. Taking the time to have a comprehensive eye exam can save your sight.”
GA CEO Annie Gibbins said: “Considering you are 10 times more likely to have glaucoma if you have a direct family member with glaucoma, and up to 50 per cent more likely if their glaucoma is advanced, it is the relatives whom we are reaching out to during World Glaucoma Week, to be glaucoma aware and increase early detection. Our primary mission is to eliminate blindness due to glaucoma.”
GA says its glaucoma-awareness campaign provides an opportunity for the eye-care professions to unite in promoting awareness, early detection, collaborative care and ongoing educational support from the association.
Businesses, optometrists, ophthalmologists, healthcare professionals and people with glaucoma will be hosting a BIG (‘Beat invisible glaucoma’) Breakfast or event to proactively communicate this message and drive a new culture in Australian eye health awareness.