Glaucoma is one of the four main eye conditions in the UK, affecting around 600,000 people, as we mark World Glaucoma Week from 10-16 March.
Glaucoma leads to loss of vision that is caused by damage to the optic nerve because of high pressure inside the eye. People of the Asian and African community belong to a high risk group, especially those with diabetes, very high blood pressure or short-sightedness.
Pari Sen, whose father, aunt and a grandaunt (father's aunt) suffered from glaucoma told Asian Voice, “My father was diagnosed with glaucoma much later in life. In my family I know 3 people who have suffered from it. My mum's sister had it and one of my great-aunts.
“People told my great-aunt that she suffered from glaucoma, because she was a vegetarian. I don't how far that is true. Whereas my dad and aunt are not vegetarians, but they suffer from glaucoma too.”
There are several types of glaucoma, but they all result in loss of vision and, if left untreated, can lead to blindness. Up to 145,000 people in the UK are living with sight loss due to glaucoma.
Most forms of glaucoma have no symptoms in the early stages, but regular eye examinations can help detect the condition early and prevent sight loss.
Royal National Institute of Blind People in a statement urged people to make sure they have their sight tested every two years. Almost 14 million Brits (13.8 million) don’t have regular eye tests, despite them being essential health checks.
Treatment for glaucoma is usually with eye drops to control the pressure in the eye. It is important that there is no break in treatment, as this will cause sight loss. There are also some surgical treatments available if drops are not sufficient.
Louise Gow, Specialist Lead for Eye Health at RNIB, says: “It is crucial that people have regular eye examinations to ensure that conditions, like glaucoma, are not robbing them of their sight. An optometrist can detect eye health problems or other medical issues at an early stage, before any symptoms are noticed.
“A routine eye test only takes around 30 minutes and for millions of us it’s absolutely free – paid for either by the NHS or an employer. Anyone who hasn’t had their eyes tested for longer than two years should urgently make an appointment to avoid potentially irreversible sight loss.”
Celebrities living with glaucoma include U2 frontman, Bono, actress and comedienne, Whoopi Goldberg, and opera singer, Andrea Bocelli.