Calls for more Kiwis to check for glaucoma

  • 27/06/2015

Ninety-thousand New Zealanders – about one in 50 of us – have the eye disease glaucoma. But eye specialists say half of them are undiagnosed, and they want everyone over the age of 45 to get tested.

Artist and writer Mike Hodge needs perfect vision and still has it, despite his glaucoma, thanks to the insistence of his wife.

"I've always known that my father had glaucoma, so about 10 years ago, as is often the case, my wife prompted me to go and get the check-up," he says. "So I went to get the check-up and found that I had early-stage glaucoma and got on top of it early, so that was a good result."

The disease is called the sneak thief of sight because without being tested you don't know you have it, and you can't get back the vision you've lost.

"Absolutely, because there are no symptoms for glaucoma until very late in the disease," says ophthalmologist Professor Helen Danesh-Mayer. "At that stage most patients who are diagnosed would be illegal to drive and would have significant visual impairment, so it sneaks up on you in a way."

But Professor Danesh-Meyer says daily eye drops are usually all that's needed to halt the disease's progress.

"Glaucoma is present in about 2 percent of the population. But as we get older it gets more common, so by the time we reach the age of 70 about one in 10 people will have a diagnosis of glaucoma."

Your chances of getting glaucoma grow tenfold if, like Mr Hodge, one of your parents has glaucoma. Optometrists say we should check for glaucoma in the same way as breast or prostate cancer. Experts say everyone should get their eyes checked by the age of 45 for glaucoma, and then at least every five years from then on.

"Our enjoyment of life is so much governed by our sight that for the sake of a quick check-up and a few eye drops every day that we can save our sight or 98 percent of us can save our sight, and in my book that's a pretty good deal," says Mr Hodge.

It's a good deal that too many of us may be missing out on.

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source: newshub archive