Aussies unknowingly living with sight-stealing glaucoma disease

Despite being the world’s leading cause of irreversible blindness, only half of Aussies know about glaucoma.


A new campaign titled Glaucoma Aware is carrying out a nationwide mission to unearth 150,000 Australians who face preventable blindness and don’t know it.


Launching World Glaucoma Week ( 12 – 18 March 2017), the campaign aims to educate Australians about glaucoma and encourage those at-risk to get a comprehensive eye check.


More than 300,000 Australians have glaucoma yet only half have been diagnosed, typically because they haven’t had a simple eye check by an eye health provider such as an optometrist or ophthalmologist.


Around 60% of Australians either haven’t been tested or don’t know if they’ve been tested for glaucoma.


Optometrist and Director of Eyecare at OPSM, Peter Murphy, comments on how blindness from glaucoma is a tragedy that is largely preventable.


“The biggest risk factor for glaucoma is having a family history of the disease. In fact, relatives of glaucoma patients have a ten-fold increased risk of developing the disease, ” Mr Murphy said.

“Glaucoma can make it very difficult for people to carry on with their day to day activities. People affected by the condition are more likely to be involved in falls and motor vehicle accidents than those of the same age without the condition which is why I am urging all Australians to visit their local optometrist to get their eyes tested.”


Geoff Pollard, National Executive Officer of Glaucoma Australia, said: “Glaucoma doesn’t just appear in families, anyone can get it.


“Glaucoma prevalence is four to ten times higher in people aged 60 years or older, compared to individuals in their 40s.”

“World Glaucoma Week presents a valuable opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of early diagnosis of glaucoma. National guidelines encourage every Australian over the age of 50 to get a comprehensive eye exam to test for the early signs of glaucoma which will assist in unearthing the 150,000 Australians currently unaware that they are living with the disease.


It is critical that at-risk Australians understand the importance of regular testing and that early diagnosis could save their vision.”


If people fall into the following groups, they should visit their optometrist or ophthalmologist to get their eyes checked for glaucoma:

  • People with a family history of glaucoma

  • Caucasians and Asians over 50 years of age.

The Glaucoma Aware campaign, sponsored by Novartis and supported by Glaucoma Australia and OPSM, aims to encourage Australians to avoid missing out on life’s special moments by getting their eyes checked for glaucoma.


For more information about the Glaucoma Aware campaign see, while you still can,


The facts

Glaucoma is a group of progressive eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and typically occurs due to high pressure inside the eye (high intraocular pressure (IOP)).


Because a healthy optic nerve is essential to the transmission of information from the eye to the brain, glaucoma can result in a gradual, irreversible loss of vision, and eventually blindness, if left untreated. The exact cause of glaucoma is unknown.


There are two main types of glaucoma: primary, or open-angle glaucoma, and acute, or angle closure glaucoma.

Open-angle glaucoma accounts for nearly 90 percent of all cases of glaucoma and is often asymptomatic – you may already be going blind with slow but ever increasing increasing tunnel vision and not even recognise it.


It occurs when drainage from the anterior chamber of the eye occurs too slowly, causing internal optical pressure to increase.


Angle-closure glaucoma, on the other hand, is less common, but can cause a sudden buildup of pressure in the eye, requiring immediate medical attention.


12 March 2015.