Jul 2013

New Zealanders Cavalier with Eyesight – Expert

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July, national Glaucoma Awareness month is the perfect time to have your eyes checked as half of those New Zealanders suffering from the disease are unaware they have it.

StephenBestA leading eye specialist is urging Kiwis to be more aware of their role in stemming the growth of one of New Zealand’s most common preventable causes of blindness, glaucoma.

Known as the ‘silent thief of sight’ an estimated 68,000 Kiwis over the age of 40* are affected by glaucoma, with that figure expected to rise by 12 percent to 76,000 in 2031.

Auckland Eye glaucoma specialist, Dr Stephen Best, says the realities of our ageing population mean that Kiwis need to be more proactive about protecting their eye health.

Glaucoma occurs when pressure rises in the eye, which in turn can lead to the damage of the optic nerve (the nerve of sight), threatening a person’s eyesight.

Dr Best says although treatment is available for glaucoma to slow the rate of progression, early diagnosis is critical and Kiwis should take the precautionary measure of getting checked to prevent vision loss.

“July is national Glaucoma Awareness month and people need to really consider the implications of losing their sight – the potential impact on their work and subsequent earnings, and the possible inability to watch their children and grandchildren grow up,” he says.

“Human eyesight naturally deteriorates with age; and with the population ageing and people living longer, New Zealanders need to be mindful about taking more preventative measures to ensure good eye health,” he says.

Dr Best says about half of those New Zealanders suffering from the disease are unaware they have it, which also serves to stress the importance of regular eye checks.

“The most common type of glaucoma, primary open angle glaucoma, does not present with symptoms of any kind until the condition is at a very advanced stage. This is why glaucoma is often referred to as ‘the silent thief of sight’,” he says.

Glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, or in more advanced cases, with laser treatment or surgery.

“Less than 2% of patients with glaucoma will go blind if the disease is detected early and treated properly. It’s worrying that some Kiwis are unwittingly sacrificing their precious vision by forgoing a quick and easy eye check,” he says.

Dr Best says Kiwis should have eye examinations for glaucoma every five years from the age of 45, and every three years from the age of 60.

“If there is a family history of glaucoma then they should seek advice much earlier,” he says.

Dr Best, who has practised for more than 15 years, is the President of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, a position historically held by Australians.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) is a professional association which brings together eye specialists across New Zealand and Australia for continued training, education, research and advocacy.

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Mark Devlin
With more than 20 years in public relations and marketing Mark Devlin has an impressive portfolio of clients who trust him with their brands. His ability to translate a commercial story into an informative and engaging business piece has seen his clients secure cut-through media coverage, position them as market leaders in their respective fields and grow their businesses substantially.
New Zealanders Cavalier with Eyesight – Expert
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