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Glaucoma Awareness Month important messages for Kiwis

Over 50,000 New Zealanders, that’s more than the population of Nelson, could be heading for unnecessary loss of eye sight.

The group of Kiwis, all over 40, have glaucoma, and don’t know it, but the good news is there is revolutionary new technology out there to help them - if they have their eyes checked early enough.

Sadly, most people don’t visit their optometrist to be checked unless they think they need glasses and consequently, many will be legally blind before they notice any symptoms.

These are trends that Glaucoma New Zealand would dearly love to turn around, during Glaucoma Awareness Month, which runs throughout July.

“It is estimated only half of the approximately 115,000 New Zealanders with glaucoma are aware they have it. That means that over 57,000 people, if left untreated, could lose their eye sight,” says Glaucoma New Zealand Chairperson Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer. “If we could reach some of these people this month, it would be life changing for them.”

Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the optic nerve at the back of the eye is slowly destroyed. The normal fluid pressure inside the eye rises, leading to vision loss - or even blindness. It is the number one preventable cause of blindness in New Zealand.

The technology that can help patients is called a MIGS, (Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery), stent. It is the smallest known medical device in the world approved for implantation into the human body. The stent releases the built-up fluid in the eye taking off the stress on the optic nerve.

“We’re excited that for some glaucoma patients, these revolutionary MIGS stents can provide new treatment opportunities that were not previously possible. This can minimise the need for eye drops while still preserving vision,” says Professor Danesh-Meyer. “Our biggest issue is getting the message across that glaucoma is preventable and can in many cases be treated.

“To provide the best opportunity for early detection of glaucoma we urge everyone to prioritise annual eye examinations after the age of 45. Regular eye tests are not just about upgrading your glasses. Think of it as an eye health Warrant of Fitness that could literally save your sight.”

To offer your support during Glaucoma Awareness Month or find out more go to www.glaucoma.org.nz


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