“We can all play a part in blindness prevention by not taking eye health for granted,” says Blind Foundation Orthoptist Practice Advisor Claire Fitzgerald.
“We encourage anyone over the age of 45, and people with a family history of glaucoma, to have a full eye check regularly, even if they think they are seeing well, to make sure treatable diseases such as glaucoma are caught early.”
Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in New Zealand and often goes undetected. It affects about 91,000 New Zealanders but only 50% of those people are aware that they actually have it.
“It’s common for glaucoma to go undetected because people with glaucoma usually keep their central vision and gaps in one eye can be compensated for by vision in the other eye. Often people don’t realise anything is wrong until it is too late.”
Fitzgerald explains that while there is no cure for glaucoma, if detected early, it can be managed and treatment can prevent vision deteriorating further.
Glaucoma can affect all ages however the risks of developing the most common forms increase with age. Glaucoma is one of the most common age-related eye conditions that impacts many New Zealanders, and the Blind Foundation applauds the government’s plans to introduce free eye checks for those over 65 as part of the SuperGold card scheme.
“Our aging population is projected to double by 2046, according to Statistics New Zealand, making it vital to make eye checks readily available and free-of-charge for senior citizens.”
Fitzgerald says the Blind Foundation anticipates the need for vision rehabilitation, which provides practical and emotional support helping people adjust to life with vision loss, will become increasingly important as New Zealand’s population ages.