8 April 2016
My sight is fine — why test for Glaucoma?
6 to 12 June 2016 is National Glaucoma Awareness Week. This year’s campaign focuses on the need for regular eye health checks for parents, children, brothers and sisters, if glaucoma has been diagnosed in the family. Close relatives are four times more likely to develop the condition, when compared to someone without a family history.
Close relatives in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can have a sight test and examination by an optometrist which is paid for by the NHS if they are aged over 40. And everyone is entitled to free testing over the age of 60. In Scotland, the NHS will pay for glaucoma examinations offered by opticians, regardless of age.
It is estimated that there are 600,000 people in the UK with glaucoma, but half have not been diagnosed. Globally, glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness and the number of people with glaucoma is increasing. [64 million people today, rising to 76 million by 2020].
In the UK, it is the most common cause of preventable blindness, yet many people are unaware that glaucoma has no symptoms in the early stages. But, if left untreated glaucoma can lead to serious loss of vision, with up to 40 per cent of sight being permanently lost before the effects are noticed. Once sight is lost it cannot be recovered.
Early detection and treatment literally saves sight, as over 90% of individuals who are diagnosed early will retain useful sight for life. Despite such promising results, it is estimated that over 50% of cases of glaucoma remain undetected in the UK.
So, it is important to have regular eye tests, especially if you are over 40, have a close relative with glaucoma, or are of African Caribbean origin.
Concerned about glaucoma?
Here are some actions for sight that you can take right now:
- Use our finder to locate your nearest SPECS network optician and book an appointment with them.
- Visit our Glaucoma information page to find out more.
- Visit the website of the International Glaucoma Association for lots of information, advice and support.
You can also take a look at our short film below about glaucoma - a patient's perspective: