According to the World Health Organisation about 314 million people throughout the world are visually impaired; 45 million of them are blind, yet 80% of cases are avoidable.
Glaucoma is the world’s second leading cause of blindness and “World Glaucoma Week 2011: Don’t Lose Sight of Your Family” is hoping to raise awareness of this silent eye condition.
Glaucoma damages the optic nerve of your eye and usually happens when the fluid pressure in the eye rises. It often goes undetected as there are virtually no symptoms or warning signs which means you probably won’t notice anything wrong until your sight has deteriorated considerably. It is estimated that around 50% of glaucoma cases in the world remain undetected.
During World Glaucoma Week we are encouraged to have an eye test, as early diagnosis and appropriate treatment is paramount in saving vision from glaucoma.
The risk of glaucoma increases with age with one in ten people over the age of 80 compared to one in 200 people under the age of 50 suffering from this condition. People who suffer from glaucoma are also more likely to suffer from other eye conditions such as myopia.
According to the National Eye Institute, family history, genetics and birth defects make you more susceptible to glaucoma. People with a family history of glaucoma have an increased risk of getting it themselves, and African Americans have a higher risk of developing glaucoma.
While there are medical and genetic causes of glaucoma, anyone can develop the condition.
Injuries to the eye or head following sudden trauma such as a car crash could cause detachment of the retina or increase the internal pressure in the eye resulting in glaucoma. Andrea Bocelli, one of the most gifted tenors in the world, was seriously injured at the age of 12 while playing football with his friends. The injury progressed to glaucoma and ultimately left him blind.
The genius otherwise known as Ray Charles worked to promote awareness of glaucoma having lost his sight at the age of seven as a result of juvenile glaucoma that went untreated.
Infections of the eye can also increase pressure in the eye and cause glaucoma to develop.
While the loss of vision caused by glaucoma is irreversible, with treatment the damage can be minimised and its progression slowed through medication and/or surgery.
If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, you will also be entitled to free eye tests funded by the NHS.