Watch for glaucoma
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.
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.