GLAUCOMA MYTHS DISPELLED
Like any health issue, there can be speculation about glaucoma, its development, and its treatment. At Glaucoma NZ, we aim to provide the best resources and support for those with glaucoma. We’ve set out to get the facts straight – so what’s true and false about glaucoma?
Glaucoma is diagnosed by assessing the optic nerve and its functions including the visual field. Glaucoma is present when the optic nerve is damaged in a particular manner called glaucomatous cupping. Other tests are to assess the risk factors for glaucoma.
The most effective glaucoma eye drop is also the safest for you. The prostaglandin group (Xalatan, Travatan, Lumigan) are very effective in over 90 per cent of people. They have very few side effects so the effectiveness to side effect ratio is extremely favourable in treating glaucoma. They are the first choice medication for glaucoma treatment.
People with risk factors for glaucoma may need more frequent eye examinations than the standard Glaucoma NZ recommendation, which is why Glaucoma NZ places emphasis on your eye examination identifying the risk factors, as well as to establish whether glaucoma is present. The converse is also true that most people (over 90 per cent of the adult population) do not need eye examinations more often than the Glaucoma NZ recommendation of once by 45 years of age and 5 yearly thereafter.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide and the leading cause of preventable blindness in New Zealand.
Blindness ranks third (after cancer and heart disease) as a major health fear.
Glaucoma currently affects approximately 65 million people worldwide — a number that can be expected to increase as the population ages.
It is estimated that 50% of people with glaucoma do not realise they have it.
If a person has a family history of glaucoma, his/her risk of developing the disease increases markedly.
Glaucoma affects 2% of the population over the age of 40 years.
More than 10% of people over 80 have glaucoma.
It is not true that glaucoma is diagnosed by doing an eye pressure test or visual field test or both. For a diagnosis of glaucoma a visual field defect must correlate with typical glaucoma damage to the optic nerve. A visual field defect can be due to many other eye conditions. And high eye pressure is only one risk factor. It does not have to be present even in severe established glaucoma.
It is wrong to think: "I have no symptoms therefore I do not have glaucoma." Glaucoma damage occurs progressively over a long period of time before you are aware of it. It is almost too late when you become aware of the visual field defect as more than two thirds of your nerve fibres have died by that point in time.
It is not true that symptoms will let you know you have glaucoma or that your glaucoma is worsening. With the most common form of glaucoma, open angle glaucoma, there are virtually no symptoms.
It is not true that people with diabetes need more frequent glaucoma examination. This is simply not so. A Glaucoma NZ 45 + 5 recommendation is a balanced professional non-commercial recommendation appropriate for people with vascular disorders including diabetes, migraine sufferers, hypertension and Raynaud’s phenomenon. These conditions may aggravate glaucoma when it is established, but people with these conditions do not require more frequent routine eye examinations.
It is not true that if you can see well with reading glasses bought over the counter you don't need to visit an optometrist. Everyone from the age of 45 needs regular eye health examinations for glaucoma.