Eye Test

Raising awareness of glaucoma for World Sight Day

EXPERTS are urging people to learn about glaucoma and have regular eye checks to help protect their vision from glaucoma – one of the leading causes of blindness in the world.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), glaucoma is the second cause of blindness globally, after cataracts. The Bright Focus Foundation reported that about 80 million people were suffering from glaucoma worldwide in 2020, and this number is expected to increase to over 111 million by 2040. However, new research conducted to mark World Sight Day (October 13) by Specsavers shows that almost half of the people surveyed (48%) don’t know what glaucoma is. This survey also revealed worrying misconceptions around glaucoma, with 42% of respondents not worrying about it because they think ‘it’s rare’ and 40% of respondents wrongly believing that it can be cured. 

This lack of awareness and knowledge is compounded, as due to its gradual onset, many people don’t realise they have the condition before it is too late. That is why this World Sight Day, Specsavers Ópticas is sharing a real-life example of how glaucoma is affecting people in Spain, raising awareness of what to look out for, as well as the importance of regular eye tests.

What is glaucoma?

Judith Borland, Director of Specsavers Ópticas in Fuengirola, says: ‘Glaucoma is a common eye condition where the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, becomes damaged. It’s usually caused by fluid building up in the front part of the eye, which increases pressure inside the eye. 

‘Glaucoma can lead to loss of vision if it’s not diagnosed and treated early. But, although any vision which has been lost to glaucoma cannot be recovered, with early diagnosis, careful monitoring and regular treatment, most people retain useful sight for life.

Unfortunately, it is a condition which often doesn’t have symptoms in the early stage of the disease, as we recently found with our customer Ian Elsby. Ian has been a customer since 2007 and during his first eye test there was no indication of glaucoma or high pressure. However, when he returned for an eye test in 2009, high interocular pressure (IOP) was measured. At that time, he had absolutely no symptoms, his vision was perfectly normal and there was no sign of damage to the optic nerve.

As high IOP is one of the symptoms of glaucoma, we gave Ian a letter to take to his doctor and request a referral to an ophthalmologist at his local hospital. At this appointment he was diagnosed with glaucoma and given drops to use at night to control his eye pressure. Fortunately, he was diagnosed at an early stage and still maintains very good vision.’

Ian adds, ‘I was just going to the opticians to check if I could wear contact lenses, so I had an eye test, even though I’d only had one six months previously. I had no symptoms and my vision was fine and as far as I was aware, I had no family history of glaucoma. So, I was shocked to be told that I could be suffering from glaucoma! I didn’t really know about what that was, or understand what the outcome could be, until the team explained the severity of the condition. Once I knew it could cause blindness, I was so happy that they identified it at such an early stage. 

I will be forever grateful for the care and professionalism of the team at Specsavers Ópticas in Fuengirola. With their help my condition was identified early and is now under control. If you haven’t had your eyes tested for a while, I would recommend regular checks to confirm the health of your eyes. Even if you feel no symptoms of poor sight.’

Are there any warning signs?

Ms Borland says: ‘There are two types of glaucoma. Chronic glaucoma and acute glaucoma. With chronic glaucoma, the visual loss can initially be very subtle and occurs just beyond your central vision, progressing slowly inwards towards your central vision and outwards into the periphery. Most patients will not be aware of this visual loss due to the way the eyes visual fields overlap, compensating for one another.  

‘The way this is detected by your optometrist is through the use of a visual field test. During this test you will be shown a sequence of light spots and asked which ones you can see. Any very subtle blind spots, which you will probably be unaware of, can be an indicator of the condition.  

‘However, acute glaucoma is often sudden and painful and may present with other symptoms including blurred vision and haloes around lights.’ 

  • Family history – The most common type of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, is hereditary. If members of your immediate family have glaucoma, you are at a much higher risk than the rest of the population – in fact family history increases risk of glaucoma by up to four times. 
  • Age – Glaucoma becomes more common with age. The risk of getting it rises from about two in 100 over the age of 40 to more than one in 20 for those aged 80+.
  • Blood pressure – While very high blood pressure can lead to an increase in intraocular pressure, low blood pressure can lead to insufficient blood supply to the optic nerve which can also cause problems.
  • Ethnicity – People of African-Caribbean and east Asian origin have a higher risk of glaucoma compared to those of European origin. 

What are the risk factors?

How is it managed? 

For many years, eye drops have been the most common form of treatment for glaucoma. They are used to decrease the amount of fluid in the eye, either by increasing the drainage of fluid out of the eye, or by reducing the amount of fluid that is made. However, other options such as surgery and laser treatment are available.

How to protect your vision for World Sight Day and beyond?

Ms Borland says, ‘My advice for World Sight Day would be to come for regular eye examinations every two years, every year if you have a family history of glaucoma. We take every precaution to make sure that the environment in store is a safe and reassuring place to be. A full eye examination only takes approximately 1/2 hour and could save your sight. Don’t be afraid to come!’ 

For more information or to book an appointment visit: www.specsavers.es