Don’t lose sight of your eye health

While many of us remember to protect our skin from the sun over summer, it’s also important to take measures to protect eyesight. Harmful UVB rays from the sun can wreak havoc for eyes, causing lasting damage in the form of macular degeneration, cataracts and conjunctival cancers.

Get sun smart with your eyes

An estimated 10 per cent of people develop cataracts due to sun exposure and Macular Degeneration is a leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia. Current research suggests that one in seven people over the age of 50 are affected by the disease and incidence rates increase with age.

One of the best ways to safeguard against MD and other sun-related eye conditions is to invest in a good pair of sunglasses. Australian sunglasses offer five levels of sun protection from zero to five, but a rating of two or above should be considered for good UV protection. The ratings relate to the amount of UV radiation absorbed by lenses, preventing rays reaching our delicate eyes.

Look for glasses that wrap around your eyes to gain the best protection. If you suffer from long or short sightedness, you can even purchase prescription sunglasses, which are tailored to your eyesight. It’s also important to pay regular visits to your optometrist to help detect cataracts, macular degeneration and conjunctival cancers before these diseases progress. Early detection is key to safeguarding against these diseases.

Glaucoma – not just a senior’s disease

Glaucoma, a disease of the optic nerve that causes blind spots in peripheral vision, is another eye disease to watch out for since it’s one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness in the world. Present in more than 300,000 Australians, it’s thought that around 50 per cent of glaucoma sufferers are currently undiagnosed.

Contrary to popular belief, glaucoma is not just a disease that affects the elderly. While it’s true that around 10 per cent of 80 to 85 year-olds suffer glaucoma – with this number growing exponentially as the population ages – it’s less known that around three per cent of the population over 40 also suffer. Diabetes, short sightedness and family history increases likelihood of developing glaucoma tenfold.

The good news, however, is that early detection can mean prevention of the disease progressing.

Most people are unaware they can request a glaucoma test with their standard eye test at the optometrist. It’s important for those aged over 45 to have bi-annual checkups, as an early diagnosis could prevent long-term damage, and be treated if detected early enough. If you have diabetes or a family history of glaucoma, it’s advisable to begin bi-annual testing in your thirties.

If you haven’t stopped by your optometrist for a while, now’s a great time to pay a visit. In the last 12 months, there has been extensive research into early diagnostic techniques to help identify glaucoma and new revolutionary treatments have been introduced.

The Glaukos iStent recently became available in Epping at the PersonalEYES eye clinic, and is a small implant inside the eye which eliminates or reduces the need for daily drops. It’s a great option for patients diagnosed with early or mild glaucoma who also require cataract surgery and are interested in reducing the burden of daily eye drop treatment.

iStent is effective in improving the eye’s natural fluid outflow and does not limit treatment options that could help maintain or correct vision in the future.

_____________________________________________________________________Dr Andrew White, an Epping-based opthalmologist,  is one of the world’s top glaucoma specialists who’s currently undertaking research to revolutionise glaucoma treatment.

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