July is World Glaucoma Awareness Month and Specsavers are encouraging New Zealanders to have regular eye examinations to prevent one of the leading causes of blindness. And yes, it is preventable if caught early enough! I headed in to my local Specsavers to learn about glaucoma and have my own baby blues checked - for the first time ever! Boy was that long overdue!
But firstly, what is glaucoma? All I knew is that it was something that old people get. But what actually is it? Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases that affect the optic nerve which connects the eye to the brain. There are four main types of glaucoma. The most common variety develops as a slow loss of peripheral vision often due to high pressure on the eye which damages the optic nerve. It's probably better understood in a diagram...
Known as the silent thief of sight, the damage caused by glaucoma often occurs so slowly with no obvious symptoms that it's estimated that 50% of people with glaucoma don't even realise they have it until the irreversible damage is done. If caught too late or left untreated, sufferers may develop tunnel vision or become completely blind. Any one is at risk of developing glaucoma but those with a family history are two to three times more likely to develop the disease.
I can't even begin to imagine what it would feel like to lose my sight but I'm the first to admit that I have been putting off having my eyes tested for years... at least 10! I can't read street signs or house numbers and it's worse at night. My husband and I often play "who can read that sign first" while we're driving along. I don't know why I bother playing actually because I never win. I need to be right up close before I can read anything but with a "I'll be ok" attitude I kept putting off doing anything about it. Unlike the dentist, another seemingly optional health service which New Zealanders seem to put off until something hurts, my Optometrist, Maheep, Director of Optometry at Specsavers Albany, told me that rarely do eye diseases cause pain and people just adjust to the slow progression of undiagnosed diseases like glaucoma until it is detected. But as glaucoma is asymptomatic, often by the time it is diagnosed the irreversible damage is done. Maheep said that damaging your optic nerve is like cutting off your finger - it will not grow back. Once it's gone, it's gone.
But!!! The amazing news, and something that I was completely unaware of, is that glaucoma is completely preventable and can be easily detected and managed with regular two yearly eye checks! For just $60 (or free for under 16's) why wouldn't you go? You can easily book online at Specsavers for a standard eye exam including three simple, quick and painless tests which will check three key factors associated with detecting glaucoma.
- Tonometry - An eye pressure test which involves blowing three short puffs of air in to each of your eyes to check your eye pressure. Normal eye pressure falls between 10 and 25. I measured 12 and 14 in each of my eyes. Anything above 25 may indicate glaucoma.- Visual Field Test - To check your peripheral vision.
- Optical Nerve Assessment - An image is taken of your retina using Digital Retinal Photography to track changes to your eyes over time. This is a standard part of your eye exam at Specsavers where other Optometrists may charge additional for this service.
If the symptoms are detected early then vision loss can be prevented. In some cases treatment may be as simple as applying daily eye drops to reduce eye pressure as well as ongoing regular eye exams.
So, how did my eyes fare? Pretty good actually. Thankfully no glaucoma was detected however there was a touch of short sightedness (no surprises there!) plus astigmatism in my left eye (something about my eye being oval, not round but nothing to worry about) and so we carried on with a little more testing to determine what lenses I would need for my new glasses! Eek!
Then off to select some frames which I thought would be the hardest part of the whole exercise. I know the difficulties I have in selecting sunglasses so I wasn't expecting this to be an easy task either!
But the staff at Specsavers are so patient and passionate about their jobs, and they were dedicated to the end to help me find glasses to suit my face, style and personality. They even have a dedicated staff member in store whose job is to help find the perfect frame to suit your face through endless try ons, honest constructive opinions, photos and measurements.
My glasses are being made in Australia as I type so you'll just have to wait and see the ones I chose!
Complete glasses start as low as $69.00 but I took advantage of Specsavers offer to buy one pair of single vision glasses and receive a second pair free! This applies to standard frames starting at $169.00 and designer glasses starting at $299.00. I ended up choosing an awesome pair of prescription aviator sunglasses as my second pair which I am very excited about trying out! Specsavers also offer great prices on progressive, bifocal and contact lenses plus a big range of extra options for your lenses.
Thank you so much to Specsavers for the excellent instore experience. I can't wait to receive my new specs and see the world in focus!