Don’t be blindsided this World Glaucoma Week

Known as the “silent thief of sight”, glaucoma is the leading cause of avoidable blindness world-wide with western Sydney residents being warned not to be left in the dark.

Glaucoma is a common eye condition that affects the optic nerve, and if left untreated can cause irreversible blindness.

Westmead Hospital ophthalmologist Dr Rajeev Chalasani said the lack of symptoms in the early stages of the condition meant glaucoma could often go undiagnosed for many years.

“This condition affects over 300,000 Australians, yet it is estimated that 50 per cent of those living with glaucoma are undiagnosed,” Dr Chalasani said.

“It starts by affecting your peripheral vison before overtaking the rest of your eye. There is no pain or discomfort associated with this which is often why it goes undetected.”

“People can walk around and not realise they have it until it’s too late.”

One of the big challenges in eye care, particularly in western Sydney, is the capacity for people that need monitoring for eye conditions like glaucoma, but not necessarily needing treatment.

Dr Chalasani said your local optometrist should be your first point of call for screening and diagnosis.

“Community eye care in western Sydney is readily available for all community members,”

“The C-EYE-C Clinic, established by the Westmead Eye Clinic, partners with local optometrists to provide screening, referrals and follow-up reviews for patients.”

“If treatment is required, they will be referred directly to the Westmead Eye Clinic.”

In 2020, The Westmead Hospital Eye Clinic saw and treated over 3000 glaucoma patients, with up to 970 glaucoma patients being screened and identified through the Community Eye Centre.

A common misconception has grown in recent years is that standard glasses will alleviate symptoms of glaucoma. Experts contest this is not the case.

“I like to think of it like a camera. You can have the best lens in the world, but if the film isn’t good – your picture will be blurry.” Dr Chalasani said.

“Glaucoma treatment works to lower the pressure inside the eye. This can be done through things like prescription eye-drops, oral medications, laser treatment of surgery. Glasses are used to help the light reflect on the retina.”

Dr Chalasani hopes World Glaucoma Week (March 7-13) along with World Glaucoma Day on March 12 will help people realise the importance of regular eye check-ups.

“Regular eye check-ups and early detection can be the difference in losing vison early on in life, or preserving it.”

“Glaucoma gets more common as you age, but you can still be affected by this condition in your early 30s and 40s.”

“Leaving glaucoma untreated can lead to irreversible blindness. A regular eye test at your local optometrist or ophthalmologist could make the world of difference.”

If you have a family history, of Asian or African descent or are over 50, you are more likely than other people to develop glaucoma.

For more information on active treatment for Glaucoma, visit the Westmead Hospital Eye Clinic website.