80 million people may be affected by silent eye disease by 2020
A call for greater awareness of Glaucoma in Ireland was launched today for World Glaucoma week 6th – 12th March 2011, as the prevalence of the eye conditions in Ireland is expected to rise with the number of older people increasing and those with a family history are at a greater risk. NCBI has partnered with the Association of Optometrists Ireland, Irish College of Ophthalmologists and Pfizer Healthcare Ireland to raise greater awareness of glaucoma during World Glaucoma Week.
Glaucoma is the name given to a series of diseases that cause progressive damage to the eye’s optic nerve and effects peripheral, or side vision. Since vision loss is permanent, glaucoma needs to be diagnosed and appropriately treated as early as possible to prevent further damage to ones vision. World Glaucoma Week aims to highlight the importance of regular eye exams and the growing impact of glaucoma on families and society.
This year’s title theme is called ‘Don’t lose sight of your family’. Untreated Glaucoma damages sight, making one unable to see their family members. It is important that patients under treatment remind their blood relatives to be tested for glaucoma regularly as they have an increased risk of developing of Glaucoma themselves. If a parent has Glaucoma, the risk of developing glaucoma is increased 5 times. If a sibling has Glaucoma, the risk is increased 9 fold.
Studies have shown that glaucoma is becoming increasingly more common in the older people and, with the number of people aged over 65 in Ireland predicted to increase by almost two fifths by 2016, and to treble by 2041, it is vital that these are caught early.
John Patrick Shanley, Academy Award Winner for Best Screenplay for Moonstruck and playwright of Doubt, was diagnosed with advanced glaucoma in 1997. “Although glaucoma runs in my family, I took my sight for granted until I was faced with the harsh reality that I could go permanently blind from this condition,” said John Patrick Shanley. “Fortunately my timely diagnosis and treatment has allowed me to live my life fully and to continue doing what I love. Now I realize that knowing your risk factors and being proactive about your eye health are crucial to help maintain a healthy, productive and fulfilling lifestyle.”
The Irish College of Ophthalmologists concur that “Glaucoma is a major cause of preventable blindness. With early detection and the correct treatment the risk of losing your sight is low. Protect yourself and have your eye pressure and optic nerve checked every 2 years if over the age of 40 and an early referral to an eye doctor if there is any suspicion of glaucoma”
NCBI Chief Executive, Des Kenny said: “NCBI continues to see a steady number of people being referred to our services every year as a result of glaucoma, which is the leading cause of preventable blindness around the world. It is vital that we encourage people to take care of their eyesight by having regular eye exams, especially as our population is ageing and many eye conditions are more prevalent among older populations. If more people are diagnosed at an early stage and can receive treatment, we hope to see a decrease in the number of people facing reduced vision as a result of glaucoma.”
“Lynda Mc Givney Nolan AOI spokesperson, “The Association of Optometrists urge members of the public to attend their local independent optometrist for this free Glaucoma test which our members offer every year. The test is quick and painless and could save your sight. Last year, our members reported several instances where they had picked up people with glaucoma who had attended them for the free test. The Glaucoma test should be carried out whenever you are having a full sight examination, however, if it is over 2 years since you had an eye examination or you are in a risk group for developing glaucoma, this is a good opportunity to have your pressures checked.”
Research highlights the difficulties of daily activities for glaucoma patients, such as driving, locating items, walking on stairs and recognising faces. All of which can prohibit patients from maintaining the level of freedom experienced before the onset of the condition.
World Glaucoma Week is a joint initiative by the World Glaucoma Association (WGA) and World Glaucoma Patient Association (WGPA) designed to promote awareness of eye health and the importance of regular eye examinations to reduce the onset of glaucoma.
For more information on Glaucoma Awareness Week please contact NCBI on 1850 33 43 53 or log on to www.ncbi.ie
Carol Faulkner, National Council for the Blind of Ireland.
email@example.com 01 882 1975 / 087 617 2947
Notes to Editors:
Glaucoma is the name given to a series of devastating diseases that irreversibly damage the eye’s optic nerve. If left unchecked, this can result in serious vision loss over time. Glaucoma is commonly detected by measuring the pressure in the eye, also known as intraocular pressure (IOP). When eye pressure increases over time, the optic nerve becomes damaged. Worldwide, an estimated 6.7 million people are blind from glaucoma, with approximately 70 million people living with the condition.
The two most common forms of glaucoma are:
Open-angle glaucoma – when the pressure in the eye increases over time due to poor drainage of the aqueous humour.
Angle-closure glaucoma – when the iris is too close to the drainage canal (trabecular meshwork).
The only modifiable glaucoma risk factor is high eye pressure, though it is possible to develop the condition without increased intraocular pressure. Due to the build-up of natural fluid produced by the eye, high eye pressure causes permanent damage to the optic nerve, the “cable” used by the eye to communicate to the brain. High eye pressure may exist without noticeable symptoms so many people do not know they have it if their vision is not checked regularly. In fact, people may not notice vision loss until 40 percent or more of their optic nerve has been damaged. IOP is an easily identifiable risk factor; however people who fall within the normal IOP range may still be at risk for glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a silent disease as there are no symptoms in the early stages and worryingly, around half of those living with glaucoma do not realise they have it.
Since glaucoma may not demonstrate any early symptoms, it’s important to learn the risk factors and to discuss them with an eye health professional. The primary risk factors for glaucoma include:
• Increasing age
• Have a Family History of glaucoma
• Have high intraocular pressure (IOP)
• marked nearsightedness
• Are of African descent (open-angle glaucoma)
• Are of Asian descent (angle-closure glaucoma)
Glaucoma is the name given to a series of diseases that cause progressive damage to the eye’s optic nerve and effects peripheral, or side vision. Since vision loss is permanent, glaucoma needs to be diagnosed and appropriately treated as early as possible to prevent further damage to ones vision.
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