Projections indicate that by the end of 2019, 7000 Kiwis are likely to be living with irreversible vision loss or blindness due to glaucoma.
One Bay of Plenty optometrist is on a mission to save the sight of those in his community by encouraging locals to book an eye health check and be educated on the risk factors of the eye disease.
Specsavers Mount Maunganui optometrist Ian Buchanan says glaucoma is the leading cause of avoidable blindness worldwide, yet 47 per cent of New Zealanders couldn’t recall having an eye health check in the last two years when asked.
In the past six months alone, the optometrist detected signs of glaucoma in more than 41 patients.
Ian says early detection is key to combatting the disease and more people need to have routine eye tests in order to detect undiagnosed glaucoma.
“Glaucoma is often nicknamed the ‘silent thief of sight’ because it has little to no obvious symptoms and sight is lost at such a gradual pace, it often goes unnoticed until it’s too late.
“Currently 50 per cent of people who have glaucoma aren’t aware they have it.
To check for glaucoma, Ian recommends that everyone have regular eye tests.
“If we detect it in early stages, treatment is simple and effective for the majority of patients.
“That’s why we’re encouraging all Bay of Plenty residents to book in for an eye health check with their local optometrist, as it could save your sight,” says Ian.
Glaucoma New Zealand general manager Ana Lee 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,” says Ana.
“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 is more prominent in older New Zealanders and with an ageing population, regular eye health checks are crucial to prevent any further loss of vision.”
At Specsavers Mount Maunganui, hospital grade OCT 3D optical imaging technology is used in all eye health checks.
This allows Ian and his colleagues to detect earlier signs of glaucoma by capturing a detailed scan of the layers of the eye’s retina and map any changes over time.