By Gurbir Singh:
Regular eye examinations can potentially save sight of thousands of people, is the key message of Glaucoma New Zealand’s annual July appeal.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in New Zealand (and the second highest cause in the world), and that is why Glaucoma NZ is urging people to get behind its annual appeal ‘Light up Glaucoma’ to save sights.
The ‘help us shine a light on the problem’ annual appeal is in its tenth year now, and raises awareness and funds to help this charitable organisation continue its sight-saving work.
There are thousands of New Zealanders right now who are at risk of going blind. It is estimated 115,000 Kiwis over the age of 40 have glaucoma, but only half of them know it. That leaves 57,500 people who could potentially lose their eyesight.
Prof. Helen Danesh-Meyer, Ophthalmologist and Glaucoma NZ Chair says with early detection and treatment, blindness from glaucoma can be prevented with medication, surgery and laser treatment.
“That’s why it’s so important to raise awareness about glaucoma and remind people of the importance of getting regular eye examinations, because it could potentially save the sight of thousands of people,” Prof. Danesh-Meyer says.
Known as the silent thief of sight, glaucoma has no early symptoms. “By the time you do notice symptoms, it’s too late because irreversible damage has already been done to your eyes. Our annual appeal raises awareness about how crucial it is to get regular eye examinations to help stop people unnecessarily losing their sight,” she adds.
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve. The nerve fibres progressively die taking away the peripheral vision first. Therefore, there are no symptoms until the disease is quite advanced.
As New Zealand’s population ages, more people will be at risk of developing glaucoma. Currently one in 10 people over the age of 70 have glaucoma. Worldwide, 4.5% of the population has glaucoma ‒ 64 million people ‒ and that’s expected to grow to 111.8 million worldwide by 2040.
Glaucoma NZ recommends people have an eye examination by the age of 45 then every five years after that until age 60. After 60, examinations are recommended every three years.
Donations to the annual appeal can be made via Glaucoma NZ’s website www.glaucoma.org.nz
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