Optometrists are on a mission to save the sight of Australia, after research has revealed that 10 million Australians[i] are not having regular eye health checks and more than 150,000 people have sight-threatening glaucoma without realising it.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of avoidable blindness worldwide, affecting over 300,000 Australians[ii], yet it is estimated that 50%[iii] of those living with glaucoma are undiagnosed.

In the past 6 months, Specsavers practices from around Australia have detected signs of glaucoma in over 17,000[iv] patients, prompting local optometrists to encourage Australians to book regular eye health checks and be educated on the risk factors of the avoidable eye disease.

Optometrist Michael Simpson says early detection is key to combatting the disease and more people need to have routine eye tests in order to detect the undiagnosed glaucoma in Australia.

Glaucoma is often nicknamed the ‘silent thief of sight’ because it has little to no obvious symptoms in the early stages and sight is lost at such a gradual pace, it often goes unnoticed until it’s too late. Currently around 50% of people who have glaucoma aren’t aware they have it, thinking they have healthy eyes.

“To check for glaucoma, I would recommend that everyone have regular eye tests. If we detect it in the early stages, treatment is simple and effective for the majority of patients,” says Michael.

Annie Gibbins, CEO of Glaucoma Australia says although anyone may develop glaucoma, some people have a higher risk.

“In many cases, glaucoma is hereditary and the risk increases up to 10 times if a family member has the disease. First degree relatives of a person with glaucoma have an almost 1 in 4 chance of developing glaucoma in their lifetime, so knowing your family health is important.

“Glaucoma Australia recommends all Australians 50 years or older visit an optometrist every 2 years for a comprehensive eye exam, and if you have a family history of glaucoma or are of Asian or African descent we recommend you get your eyes checked every 2 years from the age of 40.” Ms Gibbins added.

 


 

Glaucoma Risk Factors

You are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma if you:

  • Have a family history of glaucoma
  • Have high eye pressure
  • Are aged over 50
  • Are of African or Asian descent
  • Have diabetes
  • Are short or long sighted
  • Have been on a prolonged course of cortisone (steroid) medication
  • Experience migraines
  • Have had an eye operation or eye injury
  • Have a history of high or low blood pressure
 

[i] Galaxy Research commissioned by Specsavers in February 2017

[ii]Keel S, Xie J, Foreman J, Lee PY, Alwan M, Fahy ET, et al. Prevalence of glaucoma in the Australian National Eye Health Survey. Br J Ophthalmol. 2018; 26 April 2018:10.1136/bjophthalmol-2017-311786.

[iii]Centre for Eye Research Australia and Access Economics Pty Ltd, 2008, Tunnel Vision: The Economic Impact of Primary Open Angle Glaucoma – A Dynamic Economic Model, available at http://www.icoph.org/dynamic/attachments/resources/cera_tunnelvision.pdf

[iv] Detected through Oculo, an online clinical communications platform connecting optometrists and ophthalmologists for better patient care. Specsavers has made a multi-year commitment to use Oculo and through this, Specsavers can access data on detection, referral and diagnosis rates to further improve patient care and understand where the development areas may be in the overall health of Australians.

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