Glaucoma goes undiagnosed

Around 300,000 Australians have glaucoma but at least half of them are unaware they have the eye disease.

In a statement marking World Glaucoma week (12-18 March), Professor Jonathon Crowston, managing director of the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), said early diagnosis was vital for treatment but up to 90 per cent of sufferers had no easily recognisable symptoms.

“Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve, which is the only part of the brain that can be clearly seen. It causes the cables in the nerve to die off quicker than they should,” Professor Crowston said.

“High-eye pressure is often used as a screening tool but we know it’s a very poor indicator of glaucoma. If your optician or optometrist only measures your eye pressure the chances are it will be missed."

Other key risk factors included age and a family history of glaucoma, he said.

“Every month I see patients in the advanced stages of the disease who are much harder to treat than the patients who are diagnosed early.

“You are at elevated risk if you have a family history or elevated eye pressure, but we can stop it if caught early enough.”

CERA was now studying how exercise could play a role in protecting the optic nerve and a recent study had shown promising results for using B3, a vitamin readily available over the counter, Professor Crowston said.

To find out more, visit the CERA website.

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