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Despite fear of blindness, Aussies not getting eyes checked

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New research released today to mark World Glaucoma Week reveals Australia’s greatest fear is going blind. Blindness ranked higher than heights, spiders and lightning strikes combined (68%). The research also revealed Australians value their sense of sight (87%) higher than any other, followed by hearing, taste, touch and lastly smell.

Yet most fail to ask for a glaucoma check. Glaucoma is the world’s leading cause of irreversible blindness. Almost a third (29%) of Australians don’t actually know what glaucoma is1 and furthermore, 51% of Australians did not realise that being diagnosed early (40+ years old) could prevent blindness from glaucoma.

There are around seven million standard eye checks performed each year in Australia, only 46% of Australians think they have been tested for Glaucoma before. Half (49%) of Australians didn’t realise they should be checked.

When having an eye test virtually all Australians (95%) say they would want to know whether they are going blind, and would invest the extra five minutes it takes to have a glaucoma test to save their sight (98%).

Associate Professor Ivan Goldberg, President and Co-Founder of Glaucoma Australia, said the research findings were of concern and highlight the need for early detection; “Glaucoma is a relatively common eye disease that can result in permanent blindness. Yet it usually has few symptoms until significant and irreversible visual loss has occurred. These early symptoms are often ignored or are mistaken for other common eye conditions such as cataract or the need for new glasses.”

“The good news is that vision loss from glaucoma is usually preventable, especially if caught early. A simple eye check involving the optic disc and measurement of the eye pressure are all that is required for an early diagnosis,” Professor Goldberg continued.

Glaucoma is a common eye disease in which the optic nerve at the back of the eye is slowly and permanently destroyed, leading to irreversible vision loss, causing tunnel vision and even blindness.

Over 300,000 Australians have glaucoma equivalent to almost the entire population of Canberra. Of these, almost 40,000 suffer vision loss or blindness. Whilst one in 200 Australians over the age of 40 will develop glaucoma, half of them are never diagnosed and are living with less than optimal vision.

Glaucoma is more common with increasing age and tends to run in families. First degree relatives of people with glaucoma are eight times more likely to develop the disease.

Nicole Madigan-Everest a 30 year old writer makes sure she has an eye check for glaucoma every two years, as the condition runs in her family; “My grandfather has glaucoma and unfortunately it wasn’t picked up until he was in his 70s and tunnel vision had already set in. He only discovered he had glaucoma when he went to the hospital for another condition.”

“The thought of going blind or even losing my peripheral vision is terrifying. It’s not a condition that many people know about so I’d urge all Australians to ask for a specific check for glaucoma every couple of years,” Ms. Madigan-Everest said.

Geoff Pollard, CEO of Glaucoma Australia, said the condition remains hugely undetected in Australia and most people do not realise that asking for a simple glaucoma check could save their sight:

“Thousands of Australians miss out on glaucoma checks and fail to get diagnosed. Glaucoma is often mistaken as a condition that only affects the elderly. In fact, glaucoma can affect people at any age, even children, and since there are usually no symptoms in the early stage, it’s important that people have a regular glaucoma check, particularly those over the age of 40,” said Mr. Pollard.

Glaucoma Australia supports people living with glaucoma through an educational website, twice yearly newsletter, telephone support and education and awareness meetings nationwide. Australians should visit or call 1800 500 880 to find out more.

(Source: Glaucoma Australia)


More Information

GlaucomaFor more information on glaucoma, including the effect of nutrition on eyes, as well as some useful animations and tips to keep eyes healthy, see Glaucoma.

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Posted On: 13 March, 2012
Modified On: 15 January, 2014


Created by: myVMC