Johannesburg; 23 September 2013 – With Eyecare Awareness Month commencing from 23 September to 10 October this year, VISION Optometrists has decided to focus on creating awareness for the prevalent ocular disease – glaucoma. The World Health Organisation has named glaucoma the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, and according to the South African Glaucoma Society (SAGS), 12.5% of South Africans over the age of 40 suffer with this disease.
“Although the disease may result in irreversible blindness, the OCT, provides optometrists with unparalleled data that no other glaucoma test can match resulting in early diagnosis,” says Werner Noëth a leading optometrist from VISION Optometrists where the OCT test is included in their glaucoma assessments. According to Noëth the age old ‘puff test’ has been known to only identify the disease in one third of patients. Noëth concludes by stating that “with the OCT data, eye care practitioners are able to identify glaucoma in its early stage, thus possibly preventing any further vision loss.”
What is glaucoma?
The main cause of glaucoma is damage to the optic nerve (the eye’s connection to the brain), due to an increase of pressure-inducing fluid in the eye. The anterior chamber is situated at the front part of the eye and clear liquid flows through this space to cleanse and moisten sensitive tissue. If a patient suffers from glaucoma the liquid does not drain rapidly enough to create space for fresh liquid and the pressure in the eye builds up. The damage to the optic nerve is irreversible resulting in partial to complete permanent blindness, depending on the severity and treatment of the condition.
Although there are several different forms of glaucoma, only two main types exist namely, open angle and closed angle (angle closure) glaucoma.
Open Angle Glaucoma
This form of glaucoma is the most common and with no painful symptoms or recognisable vision loss, patients usually do not realise any changes until the disease has reached an advance stage. Without the correct treatment the patient may become completely blind, however with early diagnosis with the OCT, vision deterioration can be prevented. Treatment may include eye drops, laser or other surgery depending on the severity.
Closed Angle (angle closure) Glaucoma
Also known as acute glaucoma or narrow angle glaucoma, this form of the disease differs from open angle glaucoma whereby the pressure in the eye builds up rapidly. Acute angle closure glaucoma also includes symptoms like headaches, eye pain, nausea, halos around lights at night, and blurred vision. This form of the disease is usually treated with laser or other forms of ocular surgery to drain the eye.
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF) in San Francisco, regular exercise may be able to help lower ocular pressure in patients with primary open-angle glaucoma, but Noëth advises that regular optometric check-ups are the only guaranteed method to detect the disease. “Including the OCT technology in our practice is another example of our commitment to provide the most advanced and comprehensive eye care services,” says Noëth.
If you are unsure of whether you might be at risk, the team at VISION Optometrists has put together some quick questions:
- Do you have a family history of glaucoma and are older than 40?
- Are you from African decent (Africans are six to eight times more prone to the disease)?
- Do you feel increased pressure in your eye socket?
- Do you have diabetes?
If you answered yes to any of the above, Noëth advises that you book an eye examination with your practitioner during which a glaucoma screening will be done. If you answered no, you may still be at risk if you fall into one of the following categories:
- You are 20–29 years old and have never had a complete eye exam
- You are 30–39 years old and it has been over 5 years since your last complete eye exam
- You are 40–64 years old and it has been over 2 years since your last complete eye exam
- You are 65 or older and it has been over a year since your last complete eye exam
Further findings from the GRF puts an estimated number of suspected cases of glaucoma at over 60 million worldwide and with over half of these individuals not even being aware of the presence of the disease it is crucial that annual visits to your eye care practitioner is scheduled.
*Reference sources will be provided upon request