Watch for glau­coma

Northern Outlook - - WELLBEING -

Glau­coma is the lead­ing cause of pre­ventable blind­ness in New Zealand, af­fect­ing two per cent of Ki­wis over the age of 45.

Catch­ing the con­di­tion early greatly im­proves odds of treat­ment, and the Min­istry of Health ad­vises every­one 45 years and over to have their eyes checked for glau­coma at least once ev­ery five years.

For peo­ple aged 60 and over, checks should be per­formed an­nu­ally; by the age of 80, one in 10 peo­ple have some de­gree of glau­coma.

Any­one can de­velop glau­coma, although the like­li­hood is much in­creased for peo­ple with di­a­betes and those with af­fected fam­ily mem­bers, as the con­di­tion is of­ten hered­i­tary. Peo­ple of Asian and African de­scent are also more likely to be af­fected by some types of glau­coma.

Glau­coma in­cludes a group of re­lated eye con­di­tions caused by dam­age to the op­tic nerve at the back of the eye. This nerve trans­mits visual im­pulses from the eye to the brain and grad­ual or com­plete loss of vi­sion can oc­cur if the nerve is dam­aged.

The main cause of dam­age is raised pres­sure in­side the eye­ball, which af­fects fluid drainage in the eye and in­creases pres­sure on the op­tic nerve.

Loss of vi­sion may not be im­me­di­ately no­tice­able, as it af­fects pe­riph­eral vi­sion first, un­like mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion, which is char­ac­terised by loss of cen­tral vi­sion, and cataracts, wherein vi­sion be­comes cloudy.

Be­cause vi­sion loss from glau­coma is per­ma­nent, it is im­por­tant the con­di­tion is de­tected and treated as soon as pos­si­ble.

Op­tometrists can be per­form a sim­ple test to mea­sure in­ter­nal eye pres­sure, and in­stru­ments are avail­able to look into the back of the eye to check for dam­age to the op­tic nerve. A field vi­sion test may also be used.

Treat­ment for glau­coma usu­ally starts with med­i­cated eye drops, and while these will not re­store lost vi­sion, fur­ther loss of sight can be pre­vented.

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A pro­posal for a new well in Tuahiwi is off the agenda.

Glau­coma tests are a pain­less way to check for dam­age to the op­tic nerve at the back of the eye.

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