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Not everyone has the time to get their eyes checked regularly. With the eyes responsible for so much of our daily activities, and 93 per cent of people aged over 55 affected by long-term vision disorders, specialists say it is essential that you don’t leave it until it’s too late.

By
Amy Chien-Yu Wang
Presented by
Margarita Vasileva
Published on
Friday, February 21, 2020 - 15:39
File size
13.71
Duration
6 min

Beryl Logie’s mother was a dedicated carer to her late husband. Nursing him was a full-time job that delayed her own health care needs.

By the time she was finally able to do an eye test, it was too late, as glaucoma had damaged her eyes to the point that she eventually went blind. 

You don’t realise how precious your eye sight is until it’s not there. I learnt that from my mother. It is so sad to see somebody who was so active…she was an avid reader, gardener, and sewer, and, of course, with the glaucoma, she’s lost the ability to do all of that.

Early detection of glaucoma

Glaucoma is a serious eye disease affecting one in eight people aged over 80 and around three per cent of the Australian population. Unfortunately, only half of people with glaucoma are diagnosed.

 Centre for Eye Research Australia's research fellow Dr Jennifer Fan Gaskin, a glaucoma specialist and a practising ophthalmologist, says glaucoma is often diagnosed only after a significant vision loss.

Glaucoma is usually asymptomatic until the disease is very very advanced when they’re only left with a tunnel vision, and even then, often the brain fills in the gap, so even my patients with advanced glaucoma are often unaware that they’ve the lost majority of their vision.

Brisbane optometrist Lucy Hsieh from Grace and Vision says first degree relatives of people with glaucoma have  one in four chance of developing the disease in their lifetime.

She says that they should have eye tests to check whether there’s any problem with pressure, with appearance of the nerves, and with the peripheral vision.  

Age-related macular degeneration

One in seven Australians aged over fifty is affected by age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness and vision loss in Australia. 

Dr Fan Gaskin says a healthy lifestyle can prevent the development or worsening of age-related macular degeneration. 

Lifestyle modifications that are helpful for the eyes would also benefit their general medical health so things like quitting smoking, wearing sunglasses when you’re outdoors, and then having a healthy balanced diet that includes lots of dark green leafy vegetables, and also lots of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, food that are high in omega three such as oily fish is also highly recommended.

 Treatment for cataracts

Another leading cause of visual impairment in older people is cataracts. According to Dr Fan Gaskin, everybody will develop a cataract if they live long enough. 

Other factors such as regular over-exposure to sunlight or having diabetes will also accelerate younger people’s likelihood of developing the disease. 

Blurred vision is usually the first symptom, also they start to see halos around headlights or a lot of glare around headlights when they’re driving at night so that could be one of the early signs of cataract.

According to Medibank Better Health Index more than 700,000 Australians are affected by cataracts.

The data also found a 9.5 per cent increase in claims for cataract removal procedures between 2010 to 2017.

Lucy Hsieh says patients needn’t worry too much if diagnosed with cataract as the procedure is quite easy. 

Dr Fan Gaskin advises older people to at least have their eyes checked by a specialist once every two years, if not yearly. 

Vision-loss shouldn’t be part of ageing. As we get older, the cells may not work as well on the cellular level but if they’re regularly checked, our eyes should keep working well into our older years.

 

If you'd like to find out about other eye diseases, visit the Centre for Eye Research Australia website for more information. 

Visit Vision Australia for more information on blindness and low vision. 

Check out the Macular Disease Foundation website for information on symptoms of age-related macular degeneration. 

You can also find out more about glaucoma before or during World Glaucoma Week which is between 8th to 14th of March on the Glaucoma Australia website.