The Department of Optometry at The University of the Johannesburg (UJ) joins the worldwide recognition of Glaucoma Week from Wednesday, 12 March to 18 March 2017 with free public screenings. Glaucoma can cause blindness if not diagnosed early.
The disease is generally hereditary but everyone is at risk. Its characteristic feature is a build-up of pressure within the eye that damages the optic nerve. The nerve damage leads to visual field loss and even tunnel vison or severe vison loss in advanced stages. If not diagnosed and left untreated, glaucoma ultimately causes blindness. In most instances, this is a slow, painless progression.
Ms Pat von Poser, UJ’s Head of Department: Optometry, lists glaucoma as the leading cause of irreversible blindness globally, as per WHO (World Health Organization) estimates. Glaucoma is also the third most common cause of blindness worldwide in the over-40 age group.
WHO estimated glaucoma worldwide at 64.3 million in 2013, and is expected to increase to approximately 80 million in 2020. This emphasizes that enormous efforts will be needed in the next decade to overcome the impact of glaucoma around the world.
A South African study conducted in 2003 in Temba (by A P Rotchford), indicated a slightly higher prevalence of glaucoma in this urban black population. The study further revealed that most cases were undiagnosed and untreated.
Ms von Poser adds: “The earlier the diagnosis, the less damage done and the more vision saved. World Glaucoma Week alerts people to have regular eye checks, and so contributes to the elimination of glaucoma blindness. Regular eye checks can detect glaucoma earlier and are a normal part of health assessment in people over 40 years of age.
“With regular eye checks, treatment can start sooner. This can help to prevent avoidable blindness from glaucoma, or at least delay the progression of the disease. Treatment is effective in arresting the disease, but it cannot reverse damage which has already occurred,” she says.
Common treatment options for glaucoma include various medicated eye drops, as well as laser surgery or specialized surgery, depending on the type of glaucoma.
During Glaucoma week, time has been allocated for staff, students as well as the general public for free Glaucoma screening.
For more information and to make a booking, contact (011) 559- 6074/ 6766.