Last week (11th-17th March) marked World Glaucoma Week, an international effort aimed at raising awareness of the disease and encouraging everyone, especially those who are most at risk, to get regular eye tests.
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases that affect the optic nerve, and it can cause the patient to lose their sight completely if it remains untreated. It is estimated that glaucoma has claimed the sight of 4.5 million people globally, and that this figure is due to rise to 11.2 million by 2020.
Most people with glaucoma are unlikely to realise they have the disease until it is at its advanced stages. There is currently no cure for glaucoma and any sight loss that occurs as a result of the condition is irreversible. However, treatment for the disease does exist, and once the patient has been diagnosed it is possible for them to take action to limit their sight loss. This is why regular eye checks with an eye-care professional are vital so that the disease is caught in the early stages and treatment can begin as soon as possible.
There are various risk factors that make a person more likely to experience glaucoma, including advanced age, black African or Caribbean ancestry, and a family history of the disease. This year, World Glaucoma Week was focusing specifically on targeting people who are first-degree relatives (parents, children or siblings) of people with glaucoma to encourage them to get their eyes tested regularly. First-degree relatives have a ten-fold increase in life-long glaucoma risk, so it is extremely important that those who know they have a close relative with the disease get their eyes checked, and it is also important for people with glaucoma to inform their relatives, where they are comfortable doing so, and to encourage them to have their eyes tested.
World Glaucoma Week has been promoting this issue across the globe, with public talks, radio shows, social media campaigns and much more in countries from Brazil to Nigeria to Indonesia. Closer to home, Specsavers trained over 2,000 staff about glaucoma in advance of World Glaucoma Week, and the International Glaucoma Association worked with Vision Express to raise awareness of the condition through supporting the Vision Van which toured the UK. The NHS also produced a free glaucoma guide with information about the condition and tips suggesting how people with glaucoma can manage it. The guide can be found here: https://www.nrshealthcare.co.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/NRS-Glaucoma-Guide-FINAL.pdf.
For more information about glaucoma and to see what else went on during World Glaucoma Week, you can access their website here: https://www.wgweek.net/.
Written by Nicola Stokes