In the January 2014 edition of Eurotimes there is an article entitled “Functional Burden – late detection of glaucoma weighs heavily on patients and health systems”.

Professor Roger Hitchings from Moorfields Eye Hospital, London estimates from epidemiological data that there are 285 million people visually impaired in the world, with 39 million being regarded as legally blind. Of the blind patients, 43% are due to uncorrected refractive error (ie they potentially would be able to see with spectacles), 33% due to cataract and 2.3% due to glaucoma. This makes glaucoma the commonest cause of irreversible blindness in the world at present.

Glaucoma usually causes painless loss of peripheral or “side” vision, something which can get worse over months or years without being noticed by the individual. This can be because loss of peripheral vision in one eye is often compensated for by the other eye. The message from all the studies is how common it is for glaucoma patients in population screening to be discovered when they were unaware of any visual problems.

Professor Hitchings is concerned that glaucoma tends to occur in the elderly who may think that declining eyesight is part of growing old and so will ignore it. By the time glaucoma is diagnosed there may be significant irreversible peripheral visual loss. A study by Haymes et al showed that glaucoma patients had a three-fold increase in the risk of falls and a six-fold increase in the risk of car accidents compared to age matched controls.

Glaucoma can be detected early in people who have regular eye examinations, often before there is any loss of peripheral vision. Anyone over the age of 40yrs is advised to have an eye examination a minimum of every 2yrs. This is even more important in those with a family history of glaucoma in a 1st degree relative ie parent or sibling. Modern treatments can usually prevent significant reversible sight loss in glaucoma patients when diagnosed early.

For a full ophthalmic assessment to detect, monitor or treat glaucoma please contact the Eastbourne Eye Clinic tel: 01323 414 813 or e-mail Lisa at info@eastbourneeyeclinic.co.uk