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  • Writer's pictureRichard Kadri-Langford

Why you need regular eye exams to stop the 'silent thief of sight'

Primary open-angle glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide.

One study revealed that less than 50% of those who have lost part of their vision due to glaucoma have received an appropriate diagnosis or treatment. [1]

Perhaps that’s not as surprising as it might seem. Glaucoma has colloquially been called the thief of sight as it develops slowly, often resulting in a measure of peripheral vision loss before it has been identified. Once lost, that vision cannot be regained. However, the sooner that glaucoma, or the likelihood of glaucoma, is identified, the better the chance that full blindness can be prevented.

With that in mind, what can individuals do to prevent vision loss from glaucoma?

Firstly, we cannot emphasise enough the importance of regular and full eye examinations.

Glaucoma is caused by the build up of pressure inside the eye, leading to the optic nerve being damaged. The earlier that an eye examination picks up this elevated pressure, the sooner that action can be taken to reduce the pressure and ease the wear on the optic nerve.

Secondly, be aware of the potential risk factors which could increase your chance of developing glaucoma. These include, certain ethnic groups, older age, individuals with a family history of glaucoma, and those with diabetes. Taking steroid medication over a long period of time can also raise the chance of glaucoma. Interestingly, those on blood pressure medication need to ensure that their pressure does not fall too far overnight as low overnight pressures can also lead to damage of the optic nerve. Those who fall into any of the above groups should be hyper-vigilant and arrange for an optical review as soon as any symptoms of concern develop.

Finally, whether you have some of the risk factors or not, it could pay to tweak your lifestyle in order to boost eye health. This includes staying fit and healthy and eating a balanced diet which includes plenty of leafy green vegetables and a rainbow of fruits. Not smoking will also help, as will ensuring that you brush your teeth regularly to avoid gum disease which has been linked to optic nerve damage.

However, when you exercise for eye health, ensure that you do it safely. Those at an increased risk of glaucoma should avoid exercise which involves long periods of lowering their head below their heart, whilst some intensive exercises which raise the heart rate can also raise eye pressure. So, whilst brisk walking and regular moderate exercise can be good for eye health, any more extreme exercise forms should only be carried out under appropriate supervision. [2]

It's never too soon to take action to improve overall health and reduce the chance of developing glaucoma. Awareness is key.

Even if the thief of sight has started to creep into your eyes, the sooner it is identified, the better the chance of preventing further vision loss due to glaucoma.

Occuity is working on the PM1, the world's only non-contact, handheld pachymeter, to allow both clinicians and technicians to take a corneal centre thickness (CCT) measurement quickly and easily. Assisting in the earlier, faster, and more accurate screening of glaucoma, allowing patients to prevent vision loss through timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

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