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Only half of glaucoma sufferers know they have ailment

A NEW campaign - Beat Invisible Glaucoma - is calling on Australians to fight the disease which is the world's leading cause of irreversible blindness.

The BIG campaign, which will include a series of BIG breakfasts around Australia, is part of World Glaucoma Week from March 9-15.

More than 300,000 Australians have glaucoma but only half know about it; mostly because they haven't had a simple optic nerve check, according to Geoff Pollard, national executive officer of Glaucoma Australia, the peak body.

"Fifty per cent of people with glaucoma in Australia are undiagnosed.  That's why it's so important to get a regular optic nerve check as part of a comprehensive eye test.  Early detection is vital to preserve vision as, by the time symptoms develop, significant sight loss has usually occurred.  Glaucoma is truly an invisible disease," Mr. Pollard said.

"A total of 40 per cent of Australians have their eyes tested less often than every two years or have never had their eyes tested."

Glaucoma can affect people at any age but the incidence does increase dramatically with age - one in 200 people aged 40 has glaucoma - rising to one in eight by the age of 80. 

"About 11,000 Australians are blind from glaucoma at any one time- this is a tragedy that is largely preventable."

"After a diagnosis, people with glaucoma do need to continue treatment to keep it in check.  Treatment can usually prevent further vision loss and may consist of eye drops and/or laser and sometimes surgery is used."

Host your own BIG Breakfast or support someone who is, by logging onto www.glaucoma.org.au/BIGbreakfast

Funds raised will go towards increasing awareness that regular optic nerve checks can save someone's sight.
Specsavers is an official partner of Glaucoma Australia's World Glaucoma Awareness Week.

Optometrist and Professional Services Director at Specsavers, Peter Larsen said: "Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, and is known as the 'sneak thief of sight' because it has very few symptoms until the condition is advanced.

"We recommend getting your eyes tested every two years.  You can get a comprehensive eye test at Specsavers stores nationwide, which includes free Digital Retinal Photography - a procedure that helps to detect and manage potential sight threatening diseases such as glaucoma."

Glaucoma facts

  • Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.
  • One in eight Australians over 80 will develop glaucoma.
  • First degree relatives of glaucoma patients have an eight-fold increased risk of developing the disease.
  • 50 per cent of people with glaucoma in Australia are undiagnosed.
  • Australian health care cost of glaucoma in 2005 was $342 million.
  • The total annual cost of glaucoma in 2005 was $1.9 billion.
  • The total cost is expected to increase to $4.3 billion by 2025.

Topics:  glaucoma


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