Glaucoma - A Patient's Perspective
Wednesday 6 March 2013
Glaucoma - A Patient's Perspective
In the lead up to World Glaucoma Week (10-16 March), The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) interviewed two patients with Glaucoma to stress the importance of early detection and effective treatment.
Ophthalmologist Professor Stuart Graham is a glaucoma specialist, with a particular interest in techniques for early diagnosis of glaucoma. He has been seeing one of his patients, Debra Peat, for over 20 years. Debra (aged 57) has a family history of glaucoma, with her father and two other family members all having the disease. Debra was lucky enough to have her glaucoma detected early.
“I was always the youngest person in the waiting room, having been diagnosed at 33. My father insisted I have regular eye checks, and I am forever thankful that I did. If it wasn’t for these regular tests my glaucoma would have gone undetected until it was too late, and I would probably be blind today. I know I am one of the lucky ones to begin treatment early and avoid any loss of sight.”
Debra’s treatment includes the use of eye drops every night and a check up with Prof Graham every six months. She would like to stress the importance of regular eye tests to anyone who is delaying getting tested.
“You’re mad not to!” she says, “It’s an easy test. It’s something that can be controlled if detected early enough. You only get one set of eyes.”
Debra has four children and ensures they have their eyes checked regularly.
The story is slightly different for another one of Prof Graham’s patients, 40 year old Ricky Yu.
Ricky first discovered he had a problem with his eyes when he was 34. Ricky explains, “I was writing in a diary on my side, one eye was covered up, and I realised I couldn’t read the words on the page with my open eye. I first saw a GP, who referred me to an ophthalmologist, who diagnosed that I in fact had glaucoma.”
Through Ricky’s treatment (eye
drops) his eye pressure has improved, however unfortunately
the disease wasn’t identified early enough and he
maintains vision loss that is irreversible.
“I was detected too late, so I am virtually blind in one eye. I recommend getting your eyes tested regularly. If you have glaucoma and it’s detected early enough, it can save your sight.”
Ricky maintains the vision he has with daily eye drops and has regular check-ups with Prof Graham. Ricky loves photography and will soon be heading on an overseas holiday.
Prof Graham explains why without regular eye
tests the disease can go unnoticed until it’s too
“In glaucoma the mid-peripheral vision is slowly lost, and often is not noticed in day-to-day living until the disease is quite advanced; only finally is the central vision affected. This is why it’s so important to have one’s eyes checked regularly, even if no changes to eye-sight have been noticed. This applies particularly to those with a family history of glaucoma and those over the age of 40.”
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness
• Both eye pressure AND optic nerve examinations are vital for diagnosis.
• Glaucoma becomes increasingly common with age, so it’s especially important to be tested after the age of 40
• If you have a first degree relative with glaucoma, your risk increases 10-fold
• Only an Ophthalmologist can confirm the diagnosis and treat glaucoma.
• A study done in 2008 found 50% of people with glaucoma in Australia to be undiagnosed*
• Ophthalmologists have undergone extensive medical training (on average 12 years) making them experts in examining, diagnosing and treating diseases such as Glaucoma.
* Source: Tunnel Vision. The economic impact of Open Angle Glaucoma, Centre for Eye Research Australia, 2008