Eye Health - Glaucoma

Whether or not you wear a tie, if your sight is hazy or blurred and your eyes often difficult to focus, then you should definitely focus your attention on the messages to come from the recent World Glaucoma Day – a global event organised to raise awareness of what is known as the “silent blinding disease”.

Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases where the optic nerve at the back of the eye is damaged. The damage is caused when pressure in the eyeball rises due to a build up of fluid. This fluid build-up takes place because either too much fluid is formed or the canals in the eye, which normally drain the fluid away, don’t work properly.

More than 300,000 Australians are affected by glaucoma. However, as generally there is no pain, and loss of sight is gradual, many people – perhaps as many as 50% – are completely unaware they have a problem.

Unfortunately, glaucoma can’t be cured. Once there is damage to the nerve cells in the eye, repair is not possible. However, the serious consequences of glaucoma can be prevented if the condition is discovered soon enough; and early treatment, usually with eye drops to stabilise the pressure in the eye, can help avoid further loss of sight.

If someone in your family has glaucoma, you are almost three times more likely to have it yourself. And the risk of developing glaucoma increases as you get older. You are also at greater risk of getting glaucoma if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, if you are short-sighted or if you get migraine headaches.

In the early stages of glaucoma, most people experience no symptoms, even when losing their sight. Nevertheless, there are sometimes warning signs. Some people may notice a need to change their glasses more often, perhaps find it hard to see in dark rooms, lose wide vision, or have blurred sight.

The only way to prevent complete loss of vision is early detection and treatment. If you’re over 40, you need to see you ophthalmologist or optometrist (no need to wear a necktie!!) every two years; more often if you also have other risk factors.

There are several ways to check if you have glaucoma. Your eye specialist or optometrist can measure the pressure of the fluid in your eye; the nerves and blood vessels in your eye can be checked for damage; and your fields of vision can be tested for blind spots or sight loss.

As well, it’s been estimated that more than 10% of visual loss from glaucoma is because the prescribed eye drops are not used properly. Whether this is due to occasional forgetfulness or a deliberate or accidental failure to follow the doctor’s directions, the unfortunate result is the same. So, check with your pharmacist that you’re using you eye drops to the best advantage.

Taking The Pressure Out Of Eye Disease

There seems to be an increasing trend amongst businessmen to be dressed more casually. Suits and ties haven’t disappeared altogether, but the open-necked shirt, with or without a jacket, is certainly more common. This new dress code may have an unexpected health benefit.

Results of a study, reported some years ago in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, suggested that men who tie their neckties too tightly might increase their risk of the sight-destroying disease glaucoma. Scientists found that a really tight tie could increase pressure in the eye – one of the risk factors for the disease (albeit a very minor risk factor).