Ensues a moment of unadulterated awkwardness as I wait for them to twig and say that of course that’s not going to affect their own eye care. I end up talking to my patients about glaucoma on a very regular basis because it’s really quite interesting – if you don’t have it yourself.
Glaucoma is a proper pain in the neck to provide care for. Firstly, usually it doesn’t give any symptoms until it’s too late. Secondly it’s common, particularly in those in the more mature bracket. Thirdly, there is no one medical test that gives accurate results regarding whether you do or don’t have it. Finally, it actually isn’t one disease – it’s a family of eye diseases…how very confusing. This is why half of all glaucoma that exists in our world is undiagnosed.
What is so troubling about all this is that it is a permanently blinding eye condition, for which there is great treatment available, if only you knew to access it. I have heard it referred to as ‘the thief in the night,’ stealing people’s vision without anyone ever knowing. One of our local glaucoma specialists describes it as suddenly someone switches off the lights…for good.
Generally speaking glaucoma can be described as a condition where the optic nerve (the cable that takes the information from the eye to the brain) becomes damaged. This is usually in response to high eye pressure but not always. The particular pattern in which the nerve becomes damaged usually results in a loss of peripheral vision first, the ironic thing being that our brain fills in our peripheral vision with what it already knows to be there – hence we don’t notice a problem.
In my opinion the best way to make sure you don’t have it is surprise surprise…regular eye examinations from someone like me. In seriousness, regular comprehensive eye examinations from the same well-trained optometrist, is a great way to ensure it’s picked up at its earliest point so you can enjoy the fullest functionality of your cabling, whilst we are still above ground to enjoy it.
The optometrist can weight all the results from all the relevant tests over the years and combine them with your known risk factors to give a pretty good sensitivity and specificity. We have an unusually high proportion of glaucomatous patients in our practice because we tend to attract people with ‘unusual’ eyes…we think this has made us pretty good at picking it up as well as helping the specialists monitor it for progression over the years. As an optometrist, but more importantly as a patient who is at an increased risk of developing glaucoma, I can’t see why you wouldn’t.
For more information or to book an appointment, call Ann or Ali on 02890 323 341 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Andrew Petticrew, Optometrist.