29 January 2015
We all know that regular trips to the dentist are a must, and for others, regular trips to the doctors are also factored in. However, regular trips to the opticians are less likely to be adhered to, especially if you don’t wear glasses.
Yet, they could play a crucial role in spotting the early warning signs of the ‘silent thief of sight’, glaucoma.
Over 70 million people are affected with glaucoma worldwide, with at least 6.8 million people blinded in both eyes as a result of the condition. Glaucoma usually develops when fluid in the eye builds up increasing the level of pressure, but it can also happen with low pressure. If left untreated, it can damage the optic nerve and can lead to the progressive loss of sight.
Unlike many other conditions, glaucoma commonly doesn’t present with many symptoms. Only when the pressure in the eye is significantly raised does a patient notice their eyes are red and painful, the vision becomes blurred, and they may suffer with headaches and nausea. However, the real indicator comes from one of the main examinations carried out by an optician – to test the pressure in your eye.
In most cases, glaucoma affects both eyes. It presents typically in patients aged between 50 and 70 but in a minority of patients, chronic glaucoma can advance aggressively at a young age.
While the damage caused by glaucoma is irreversible, the prevention of further damage is possible. As a result, early diagnosis of glaucoma is critical, with treatments ranging from drops to laser or surgery.
There are risk factors, such as high or low blood pressure, migraines, blood circulation problems and whether there is a family history.
Therefore, just as we all have a duty to look after our teeth through regular check-ups, we must also ensure we do the same for our eyes, especially if we have a relative with glaucoma.
Mr Thomas Ressiniotis is a consultant ophthalmologist at the Spire Eye Centre in Spire Little Aston Hospital, Sutton Coldfield.