Get your eyes tested and prevent glaucoma

Regular eye tests can help you stop glaucoma in its tracks, says Gauteng Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa as the Health Department commemorates World Glaucoma Week.

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that result in damage to the eye's optic nerve. Glaucoma is generally related to a high eye pressure. Damage to the optic nerve initially results in a decreased vision and may eventually lead to blindness.

Vision lost as a result of glaucoma usually cannot be recovered. Early diagnosis and careful lifelong treatment can help prevent further visual damage. If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, ensure you use your medications correctly. See your eye surgeon in order to monitor the disease, said MEC Ramokgopa.

Glaucoma Week is being observed from 11 - 17 March, during which the department aims to create awareness on the importance of eye care, regular eye testing and preventative care.

In its early stages, glaucoma usually has no symptoms, which is what makes it so dangerous. By the time you notice problems with your sight, the disease has progressed to the point that irreversible vision loss has already occurred and additional loss may be difficult to stop, said MEC Ramokgopa.

Glaucoma facts

Glaucoma occurs in people of all ages, from children to older adults. It is more likely to develop in people who are over 35 years old, very near-sighted, diabetic, with enlarged cataract and or eye disease.

It may also be inherited, as relatives of glaucoma patients are more likely to develop glaucoma themselves.

According to the Health Department, elevated intraocular pressure is considered the most important risk factor. However, glaucoma may occur even with normal reading.

A disturbed vascular regulation of the vessels supplying blood to the optic nerve head in the eye can result in glaucoma.

People with low blood pressure or general circulatory disturbances are particularly at risk. A history of glaucoma in the family requires regular examinations at all ages, not just from the age of 40 onwards.

The Gauteng Health Department said in the previous financial year it performed a total of 678 glaucoma surgeries. Of these surgeries, 597 were on adults and 61 on children.

Have your eyes tested every second year. Early detection, correct medication and proper management will prevent blindness due to glaucoma, advised MEC Ramokgopa.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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