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Unprecedented number of Mayors rally to Save Sight

National Media Release

Unprecedented number of Mayors rally to Save our Sight

More than sixty mayors from around the country are working together to raise awareness about Glaucoma, the ¡¥silent thief of sight¡¦.

The mayors are having their eyes tested during ¡¥Save Our Sight Glaucoma Week¡¦, from 8th August to 12th August. The glaucoma eye examination will tell the mayors if they are one of the forty thousand New Zealanders who have glaucoma, but may not realise it.

Helen Danesh-Meyer, Associate professor, says that 50 percent of glaucoma in New Zealand in undiagnosed, leading to complications for the many people affected.

¡§Because the damage from glaucoma develops slowly, with peripheral vision being lost first, it can develop without people being aware of its onset,¡¨ says Professor Danesh-Meyer.

This lack of obvious warning signs is a major reason why glaucoma is the number one cause of preventable blindness in New Zealand.

¡§The only way to find out if you have glaucoma is to test for it, which is why it¡¦s so important to have a regular eye check, just as so many New Zealand mayors are during this week. I¡¦m delighted with the support we have received from our local body leaders in raising awareness about glaucoma.¡¨

The Mayor of Auckland City Dick Hubbard is just one of those who is giving his time to support the cause.

"Having my eyes tested is the best thing I can do to protect my sight for the future," Mr Hubbard says, "I encourage everyone to do the same during Save Our Sight Glaucoma Week."

Glaucoma detection and diagnosis requires an eye examination to record the pressure in the eye, to check for risk factors for glaucoma and especially to check on the health of the optic nerve head within the eye. When glaucoma is suspected then a visual field test is required.

In Auckland Mayors Dick Hubbard, George Wood, John Robertson and Deputy Mayor Anne Candy will have their eyes tested for glaucoma on Wednesday 10th August at 2pm at Barry & Beale Optometrists in Queen Street.

In Wellington Mayors Kerry Prendergast, Jenny Brash, David Ogden and Deputy Mayor Ann Chapman will have their eyes tested for glaucoma on Wednesday 10th August at 2.30 pm at Barry and Sargent¡¦s, First Floor, The Grand, 16 ¡V 19 Willis St.

In Christchurch Councilor Barry Corbett and the Mayor of Banks Peninsular Bob Parker will have their eyes tested for glaucoma on Wednesday 10th August at 10am at Visique Foate Optometrists, 129 Farrington Road.

Joining the mayors in raising publicity about glaucoma will be representatives of Glaucoma New Zealand, optometrists and people living with the disease.

ENDS

Glaucoma is the name of a group of related diseases which damage the optic nerve that carries signals from the eye to the brain. This damage is usually caused by increased fluid pressure within the eye.

Two percent of all people over aged 40 years have glaucoma but this rises to ten percent of people over the age 70. Therefore everyone over 40 should have an eye test for it. If you have a family history of glaucoma, you¡¦re ten times more likely to get the disease.

Glaucoma New Zealand is a charitable trust dedicated to preventing blindness from glaucoma. Our aims are:
„hto increase awareness about glaucoma in our community
„h to inform and educate people about the disease
„h to facilitate research into the condition
Glaucoma New Zealand is a participant in the New Zealand Association of Optometrists Save Our Sight Month. The month aims to:
„h Reduce preventable blindness.
„h Raise awareness of threats to eye health.
„h Promote the value of regular eye exams.
„h Encourage the maintenance of sight for life.
Glaucoma New Zealand is supported by Pfizer, Visique Optometrists, Alcon, Allergan, and Merk Sharp & Dohme.

Mayors leading the way for Glaucoma Prevention.

Mayors from around New Zealand will participate in the Mayors for Sight programme run by Glaucoma New Zealand. The goal is to increase public awareness of how simple it is to prevent glaucoma stealing away sight. It all starts with a simple eye test.

Approximately 40,000 New Zealanders suffer from glaucoma. It is the leading cause of preventable blindness in NZ. If not managed effectively, glaucoma can lead to significant loss of vision which is irreversible. Early treatment with effective agents has been proven to reduce blindness.

International research has found that one recent class of eye drop medicine has revolutionised treatment for glaucoma, which is the primary cause of preventable blindness in New Zealand.

Prostaglandins have unparalleled efficacy and safety compared to older drugs, according to research presented at last months Association of Vision and Research in Ophthalmology, held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

This view is supported by recent research carried out by the Department of Ophhtalmology in the University of Auckland Medical School by Associate Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer, the Managing Trustee of Glaucoma NZ.
A/Prof Danesh-Meyer has documented that prostaglandins are now the first choice of ophthalmologists in Australia with 81% of doctors using this class of drug as their primary treatment for glaucoma. Because of this very effective medication the rate of surgical procedures for glaucoma has declined sharply.¡¨

¡§By comparison, in New Zealand, less than 10% of patients are able to have prostaglandins used as their first line therapy., says Associate Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer.

¡§The impact of loss of vision on patients is enormous, and can significantly affect their quality of life and ability to carry out day to day tasks. It can also lead to increased care and associated medical costs.¡¨

The latest European Glaucoma Society Guidelines also state that the prostaglandin medicines have super-ceded Beta-blockers, the traditional treatment for glaucoma, as the first choice of treatment. This is based both on the superior side effect profile and effectiveness of this class of drug both in the short and long-term.

¡§The prostaglandin medicine is the most effective class medication in lowering the pressure within the eye which is the only proven way to treat glaucoma. Says Associate Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer

This medicine has been available in other developed countries for at least 5 years. Glaucoma patients in these countries have been given access to these medicines as the first line treatment for much of this time.

However in New Zealand access to these medicines has been severely restricted by PHARMAC ¡V but fortunately this is changing from 1st September with this class of medicine becoming more widely available for New Zealanders with glaucoma.

¡§Prostaglandins eye drops are recognised as the leading treatment world wide for glaucoma, and are widely available as a first line treatment in other developed countries such as Australia, UK, Canada and the US.

Prostaglandins have shown that they can maintain their effects long term - an important consideration because the deterioration of vision caused by uncontrolled glaucoma can happen over many years. The prostaglandin medicines not only control the pressure in the eye more effectively than any other single glaucoma medicine, but also require only one drop a day.

¡§Glaucoma New Zealand is pleased that PHARMAC announced last week that it will remove the strict access criteria to this important class of medicine.¡¨ Dr Tarr said. ¡§This means that New Zealanders with glaucoma can now receive this simple eye-drop earlier in the diagnosis to assist with reducing the likelihood of any further loss of vision¡¨.

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