Health & Well­be­ing

Whanganui Midweek - - CARING FOR THE ELDERLY -

Glau­coma has of­ten been called the dis­ease that strikes like a thief in the night. It’s un­ob­tru­sive and can sneak up on you, tak­ing away your sight with no pain or symp­toms.

Glau­coma is most com­monly as­so­ci­ated with an in­creased pres­sure in the eye, which over time slowly de­stroys the op­tic nerve. Other the­o­ries in­clude poor blood sup­ply to the op­tic nerve it­self, or prob­lems with the in­tegrity of the nerve. Though less com­mon, cer­tain types of glau­coma can oc­cur in those with low eye pres­sures. Though more com­mon in the el­derly, glau­coma can be­gin at any age. Be­cause there are usu­ally no symp­toms as­so­ci­ated with glau­coma, ap­prox­i­mately half of those af­fected are un­aware. The vis­ual sys­tem is very adept at fill­ing in gaps, so one eye of­ten ‘cov­ers up’ for the de­fects in the other, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to de­tect un­til very ad­vanced stages.

It is es­ti­mated that over 68,000 New Zealan­ders have glau­coma. This num­ber con­tin­ues to in­crease as our pop­u­la­tion ages: it is now one of the lead­ing causes of blind­ness in New Zealand.

For­tu­nately, glau­coma is treat­able in the ma­jor­ity of cases when di­ag­nosed early. More of­ten than not, pre­scrip­tion eye drops are all that is re­quired. Pre­ven­tion is the key, and reg­u­lar com­pre­hen­sive vi­sion ex­am­i­na­tions are rec­om­mended for all adults.

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