Guard against glaucoma – regular eye exams can spot chronic condition

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An optician has urged people across East Sussex to get their eyes examined to guard against a chronic life-long disease, as eye care professionals across the world vow to ‘get to grips with glaucoma’.

Managing Director, Jeremy Heynes,ofBarracloughstheOpticianswith 7 practices across East Sussex, has spoken out ahead of World Glaucoma Week takingplace from March 10 to March 16, to help raise awareness of a condition that is the leading cause of blindness worldwide.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss over time. It is caused by an increase in pressure within the eye, which can damage the delicate nerve fibers that transmit visual information from the eye to the brain. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause irreversible vision loss and even blindness.

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Jeremy Heynes (FBDO) said: “Glaucoma is a life-long, chronic disease that cannot be cured. Any sight lost due to glaucoma cannot be regained. But the good news is, with effective medical treatment, the damage can be slowed or even stopped in its tracks.

Barraclough the OpticiansBarraclough the Opticians
Barraclough the Opticians

“Glaucoma was once a disease that would almost certainly lead to blindness. Huge advances in diagnosis, monitoring and treatment now mean that, in the UK, the vast majority of people with glaucoma will keep useful sight for life.

“However, it’s vital we diagnose it early to give the patient the best possible care. That is why we are using World Glaucoma Week to urge everyone to get their eyes examined so we can screen for any eye condition that could potentially be damaging to your health.”

Glaucoma is a widespread condition, affecting an estimated 80 million people worldwide. In England, about 500,000 people have chronic open-angle glaucoma but there will be many more unaware they have the condition. This is because glaucoma often has no symptoms in its early stages, which is why regular eye exams are so important.

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Anyone can develop glaucoma but there are several risk factors which make glaucoma more likely.

Age – Primary open angle glaucoma becomes more common with age. It’s fairly rare below age 40, but rises from about two in 100 over the age of 40 to more than one in 20 for those aged 80+.

Blood pressure – Very high blood pressure can lead to an increase in intraocular pressure. Low blood pressure can lead to insufficient blood supply to the optic nerve which can also cause problems.

EthnicityPeople of African-Caribbean origin have about a four-times higher risk of primary open angle glaucoma compared to those of European origin. People of east Asian origin are at higher risk of developing primary angle closure glaucoma.

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Family history – There is at least a four-times higher risk of developing glaucoma if you have a close blood relative who has it. So, if you have glaucoma, you should tell your relatives about the condition as they may need to be tested.

Short sight – People with short sight (myopia) are at increased risk of developing glaucoma.

Long sight – People with long sight are at increased risk of developing primary angle closure glaucoma.

Diabetes – People with diabetes may be at higher risk of developing glaucoma.

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