News

  • Tiny tube made of jelly to stop you losing your sight: Implant could help thousands who have glaucoma

    • A gelatine tube that's injected into the eye could help thousands 
    • May be more effective at draining away fluid than other procedures
    • Glaucoma, a condition that affects 600,000 people in Britain
    • Cathy Gosling, 65, from London, had it fitted in March

    It is triggered by fluid building up in the eye, and can lead to blindness if left untreated.

    This new implant - which is 6mm long and the width of a hair - helps drain away the excess liquid.

    As the 15-minute procedure doesn't involve any incisions or stitches, patients are said to recover faster, with less risk of infection than with standard surgery.

    Cathy Gosling, 65, was diagnosed with glaucoma in 2010 during a routine eye check

    Furthermore, the gelatine tube may be more effective at draining away fluid than other minimally invasive procedures. The eye naturally produces a watery fluid that fills the space between the lens and the cornea (the clear dome at the front of the eye), giving the eye its shape and providing it with nutrients. The fluid should drain away through tiny channels.

    However, these channels can stop functioning effectively, though it's not exactly clear why. As a result, fluid can't drain away and pressure builds up inside the eye.

    Over time this pressure damages the optic nerve that transmits visual images to the brain.

    Glaucoma develops slowly, so there may be no noticeable symptoms, but regular eye tests mean it can be detected and treated early to prevent lasting damage.

    Once diagnosed, patients are prescribed eye drops to reduce the pressure, for example by slowing down the production of fluid.

    But drops can stop working as the disease becomes resistant to their effect, meaning alternative treatment is necessary.

    The 'gold standard' procedure is a trabeculectomy. With the patient under anaesthetic, the surgeon cuts into the eye wall to create a new opening - or channel - allowing fluid to drain out.

    But this carries the risks associated with surgery, such as bleeding and infection, and recovery of up to three months.

    There are also treatments where doctors insert a metal tube, or stent, into the eye's existing drainage channel.

    She had the implant fitted in her left eye in March at the same time as having cataract surgery

    She had the implant fitted in her left eye in March at the same time as having cataract surgery

    This form of minimally invasive glaucoma surgery is quicker to perform and non-invasive compared to a trabeculectomy, so has a quicker recovery time (four weeks) and less risk of infection.

    The new Xen Gel stent combines the benefits of trabeculectomy with those of minimally invasive surgery.

    The implant - a small tube - is injected via hypodermic needle to sit just under the skin at the base of the cornea. This gelatine tube is similar in size to the metal tubes already used (which range in size from around 6.35mm to 8mm).

    But unlike a metal stent inserted into an existing drainage channel, this hollow tube forms a new channel for fluid to drain through.

    And because it is made of gelatine, it is better tolerated by the body and less likely to irritate the eye than metal or synthetic materials.

    Because the implant is soft it should cause minimal damage to the cornea - a research paper published in the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery last year concluded that it caused little disruption to the conjunctiva, the tissue covering the front of the eye.

    'The new implant is the first time that we're able to do something as good as the gold standard, but quicker and safer and more comfortable for patients,' says Vik Sharma, a consultant ophthalmologist at the Royal Free Hospital, North-West London, and clinical director at the London Ophthalmology Centre.

    Another advantage over metal stents, he says, is that the implant creates a new channel in the eye. 'If you're putting a pipe into a channel that's already blocked then studies show this doesn't work effectively,' says Mr Sharma, who has treated more than 60 patients privately with the new implant.

    'With this new way you're not relying on the natural drainage system - you're making a new channel, but without invasive surgery.'

    I was very nervous as it was done under local anaesthetic, but it didn't hurt and I was home within two hours

    Around a third of patients who have the Xen Gel implant will not need eye drops afterwards, compared with half of those who undergo a trabeculectomy, say surgeons.

    Cathy Gosling had the implant fitted in her left eye in March at the same time as having cataract surgery.

    The 65-year-old, who works in publishing, was diagnosed with glaucoma in 2010 during a routine eye check.

    Though she did not have any symptoms and her vision wasn't affected, the check revealed her eye pressure was getting high. A reading of 12 to 22 is normal - Cathy's was 24 to 25.

    Her optician referred Cathy, from East Finchley, North London, to Mr Sharma and the condition was managed for four years with eye drops.

    However, six-monthly check-ups found the pressure was not consistently low enough, which meant that her optic nerve was becoming damaged. A trabeculectomy was not possible because Cathy was on drug-thinning drugs for an unrelated health problem, so couldn't undergo surgery because it raises the risk of bleeding. Mr Sharma suggested the Xen Gel stent.

    After the procedure (which costs £6,000 per eye), Cathy was sent home with eye drops and an eye patch, which she wore for a day. She was back to work within three days.

    'I was very nervous as it was done under local anaesthetic, but it didn't hurt and I was home within two hours of the operation,' says Cathy.

    Glaucoma s triggered by fluid building up in the eye, and can lead to blindness if left untreated (file photo)

    Glaucoma s triggered by fluid building up in the eye, and can lead to blindness if left untreated (file photo)

    'I felt discomfort in my eye for the rest of that day, but took paracetamol and by the following day the pain had subsided.

    'I couldn't see out of my left eye at first, but by the next day my vision was getting back to normal and within a couple of days I could read normally. I can't feel the stent in my eye.'

    Her eye pressure is now normal (15 to 16). Though she is still using eye drops to ensure the pressure doesn't rise again, it is only once a day compared with twice a day before.

    Keith Barton, a consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London says the new jab is quicker, more comfortable and less invasive than a trabeculectomy, but won't be the best option for all patients.

    'It's not suitable for patients with advanced glaucoma - implant-type procedures are not as effective as a trabeculectomy at lowering eye pressure,' says Mr Barton, who performs the new implant procedure privately and on NHS patients.

    'They only lower it to around 15, and patients with advanced glaucoma need much lower eye pressures because of the damage already caused to the optic nerve.

    'But for others it is the first treatment that offers an alternative to the gold standard.'

    Helen Doe, a nurse from the charity the International Glaucoma Association, welcomed the new procedure, but said it wasn't a 'cure'.

    'Stents are still relatively new, though they're less invasive than a trabeculectomy, so mean a faster recovery time. The question is, what is their longevity?

    'If you're diagnosed at 40, then you could live for another 40 years. Their effects may not last this long.

    'And not all glaucoma is triggered by increased pressure - there are patients who suffer damage to the optic nerve, but tests show their eye pressure is normal - so we need more research into what exactly are the causes behind it.

    'However, the fact it is made of gelatine rather than metal means it is more biocompatible and won't harm living tissue.'

    The International Glaucoma Association helpline is 01233 648170, glaucoma-association.com

    Read more

  • 45s Shun Eye Tests Which Could Protect their Driving Licence and Vision

    Millions of drivers over the age of 45 could be risking losing their driving licence and potentially their vision, by not taking an eye test every 1-2 years as recommended by the International Glaucoma Association (IGA). According to a new survey by the IGA, 18% of the 1,000 over 45s surveyed said they had either not had an eye test in the last five years, or had never had one at all. In the regions, 23% of Scots, 25% of those in Northern Ireland and 24% in the East Midlands haven’t had an eye test in the last five years, or have never had one at all compared with the national average of 18%. The survey also showed a marked difference between men and women, as 21% of men said they hadn’t had an eye test in the last two years, compared with 16% of women.

    The IGA commissioned the survey for National Glaucoma Awareness Week (8th-14th June 2015). This year’s campaign, ‘Can You See to Drive?’, encourages people to have regular eye health checks to ensure that they are safe to drive. It is only with regular eye health checks through a local optometrist (optician) that people will know if their driving vision is affected. This is particularly important with glaucoma as it has no symptoms in the early stages, but, with early detection and continued treatment people will often retain useful sight for life and will be safe to drive for many years. In fact only 24% of those surveyed correctly knew there are no early symptoms of glaucoma.

    There are an estimated 600,000 people with glaucoma in the UK, but 300,000 are undiagnosed. Advanced glaucoma leads to serious loss of sight. As there are no early symptoms of the condition, it is vital people over the age of 40 have regular eye health checks every one or two years.

    The IGA survey suggests that lack of time and money could be preventing people from having eye tests, as when asked for reasons for not having an eye test, 15% of those surveyed said it takes too much time, 11% said they don’t think they need a test and 36% worry about the cost. Men are more likely than women to think they don’t need an eye test: 17% compared with 7%.

    In the regions Scots are most likely to say they don’t have time for an eye test (22% compared with national average of 15%), while Londoners are most likely to think they don’t need an eye test (20% compared with the national average of 11%). Those in East Midlands are more likely to say they worry about the cost of a test (46% compared with the national average of 36%)

    People with glaucoma that has caused damage to vision in both eyes are required by law to report their condition to the DVLA. If they fail to do so they can face a criminal conviction, a fine up to £1000 and may be uninsured to drive. The IGA is concerned that its survey showed 5% of those surveyed wouldn’t report glaucoma to the DVLA if advised by a health professional, either because they think it would stop them from driving, or because they don’t think they need to and men are much more likely than women to withhold information from the DVLA: 10% and 3% respectively. In the regions 16% of those in Northern Ireland and 13% of Londoners would not report glaucoma to the DVLA, compared with the national average of 5%.

    No less worrying was the fact that 6% of men surveyed said they have had, or nearly had, a car accident owing to their own, or someone else’s poor sight, compared with just 2% of women who said this.

    Russell Young, CEO of the International Glaucoma Association comments, “The majority of us wouldn’t take our cars on the road without an annual service and MOT yet, we are happy to put ourselves behind the wheel without knowing if we can see safely to drive. A visit to the optometrist will quickly check our vision safety and detect if there is any risk of glaucoma. Without regular checks the condition can go unnoticed, causing serious sight loss and the possible loss of a driving licence.”

    “Around 10 per cent of the calls we receive to our helpline (01233 648 178) are from people worried about whether their glaucoma is going to affect their ability to drive. Yet the majority of those that report to the DVLA will not need further tests, and of those that do, the majority will be found safe to drive”, Young concludes.

    Glaucoma – What You Need to Know:
    • Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions in which the main nerve to the eye (the optic nerve) is damaged where it leaves the eye. This nerve carries information about what is being seen from the eye to the brain and as it becomes damaged vision is lost
    • Glaucoma is more common in people over the age of 40. There is at least a four times increased risk of developing glaucoma if you have a close blood relative with the condition (father, mother, brother, sister, or child)
    • There are no early symptoms of glaucoma
    • Symptoms of advanced glaucoma include missing, patchy vision and even serious loss of vision
    • Regular eye health checks (every two years, or every 1-2 years for over 40s) will detect conditions such as glaucoma, which is important given there are no early symptoms
    • With regular treatment for glaucoma, vision and driving licences can be protected
    • Most people with glaucoma will be safe to drive for many years, but it important to alert the DVLA to the condition if advised by an ophthalmologist
    • The majority of people (nine out of 10) who report glaucoma to the DVLA will be passed as safe to drive (DVLA 2013*)
    • The IGA has a leaflet on glaucoma and driving, which is approved by the DVLA, which can be accessed by visiting www.glaucoma-association.com or via Sightline by calling 01233 64 81 78
    • The IGA is working with Vision Express in raising awareness of glaucoma during National Glaucoma Awareness Week. Activity includes placement of promotional posters, leaflets and collection boxes in Vision Express’ 390 stores nationwide

    -ENDS-

    Note to editors:
    The survey was commissioned by the IGA through Red Dot Research on 14-19 May 2015 among more than 1,000 people over the age of 45 nationwide.
    * available on request.

    For further information or to interview an IGA spokesperson, please contact:
    Annabel Hillary, 07884 430862, annabel@prwhenyouneedit.co.uk
    or Mary-Jane Greenhalgh, 07866 722051, maryjane@prwhenyouneedit.co.uk
    or Karen Brewer on: DD: 01233 64 81 69; M: 07976 08 52 40; k.brewer@iga.org.uk,

    About the International Glaucoma Association:
    1. The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) is the charity for people with glaucoma, with the mission to raise awareness of glaucoma, promote research related to early diagnosis and treatment, and to provide support to patients and all those who care for them. For more information, please visit: www.glaucoma-association.com
    2. Set up in 1974, it is the oldest patient based glaucoma association in the world and it is a Charity Registered in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England & Wales.
    3. As part of its support services, it operates the IGA Sightline (helpline) and provides free information on any aspect of glaucoma.
    4. For more information about glaucoma, contact the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) Sightline on 01233 64 81 78 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am–5.00pm).

    Read more

  • Welsh Over 45 Shun Eye Test Which Could Protect their Driving Licence and Vision

    Millions of drivers over the age of 45 could be risking losing their driving licence and potentially their vision, by not taking an eye test every 1-2 years as recommended by the International Glaucoma Association (IGA). According to a new survey of 1,000 adults over the age of 45, commissioned by the IGA, 11% of the Welsh surveyed said they had either not had an eye test in the last five years, or had never had one at all. The survey also showed a marked difference nationally between men and women, as 21% of men said they hadn’t had an eye test in the last two years, compared with 16% of women.

    The IGA commissioned the survey for National Glaucoma Awareness Week (8th-14th June 2015). This year’s campaign, ‘Can You See to Drive?’, encourages people to have regular eye health checks to ensure that they are safe to drive. It is only with regular eye health checks through a local optometrist (optician) that people will know if their driving vision is affected. This is particularly important with glaucoma as it has no symptoms in the early stages, but, with early detection and continued treatment people will often retain useful sight for life and will be safe to drive for many years. In fact only 16% of the Welsh surveyed correctly knew there are no early symptoms of glaucoma.

    There are an estimated 600,000 people with glaucoma in the UK, but 300,000 are undiagnosed. Advanced glaucoma leads to serious loss of sight. As there are no early symptoms of the condition, it is vital people over the age of 40 have regular eye health checks every one or two years.

    The IGA survey suggests that lack of time and money could be preventing people from having eye tests, as when asked for reasons for not having an eye test, 41% of the Welsh surveyed worry about the cost, 4% of those surveyed said it takes too much time and 11% said they don’t think they need a test. Nationally, men are more likely than women to think they don’t need an eye test: 17% compared with 7%.

    People with glaucoma that has caused damage to vision in both eyes are required by law to report their condition to the DVLA. If they fail to do so they can face a criminal conviction, a fine up to £1000 and may be uninsured to drive. The IGA is concerned that its survey showed that nationally 5% of those surveyed wouldn’t report glaucoma to the DVLA if advised by a health professional,, either because they think it would stop them from driving, or because they don’t think they need to.
    Nationally, men are much more likely than women to withhold information from the DVLA: 10% and 3% respectively.

    No less worrying was the fact that 6% of men surveyed nationally said they have had, or nearly had, a car accident owing to their own, or someone else’s poor sight, compared with just 2% of women who said this.

    Eryl Williams, Business Development Manager of the International Glaucoma Association in Cardiff comments, “The majority of us wouldn’t take our cars on the road without an annual service and MOT yet, we are happy to put ourselves behind the wheel without knowing if we can see safely to drive. A visit to the optometrist will quickly check our vision safety and detect if there is any risk of glaucoma. Without regular checks the condition can go unnoticed, causing serious sight loss and the possible loss of a driving licence.”

    “Around 10 per cent of the calls we receive to our helpline (01233 648 178) are from people worried about whether their glaucoma is going to affect their ability to drive. Yet the majority of those that report to the DVLA will not need further tests, and of those that do, the majority will be found safe to drive”, Williams concludes.

    Glaucoma – What You Need to Know
    • Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions in which the main nerve to the eye (the optic nerve) is damaged where it leaves the eye. This nerve carries information about what is being seen from the eye to the brain and as it becomes damaged vision is lost.
    • Glaucoma is more common in people over the age of 40. There is at least a four times increased risk of developing glaucoma if you have a close blood relative with the condition (father, mother, brother, sister, or child).
    • There are no early symptoms of glaucoma
    • Symptoms of advanced glaucoma include missing, patchy vision and even serious loss of vision
    • Regular eye health checks (every two years, or every 1-2 years for over 40s) will detect conditions such as glaucoma, which is important given there are no early symptoms
    • With regular treatment for glaucoma, vision and driving licences can be protected
    • Most people with glaucoma will be safe to drive for many years, but it important to alert the DVLA to the condition if advised by an ophthalmologist.
    • The majority of people (nine out of 10) who report glaucoma to the DVLA will be passed as safe to drive (DVLA 2013*)
    • The IGA has a leaflet on glaucoma and driving, which is approved by the DVLA, which can be accessed by visiting www.glaucoma-association.com or via Sightline by calling 01233 64 81 78
    • The IGA is working with Vision Express in raising awareness of glaucoma during National Glaucoma Awareness Week. Activity includes placement of promotional posters, leaflets and collection boxes in Vision Express’ 390 stores nationwide.

    -ENDS-

    Note to editors:
    The survey was commissioned by the IGA through Red Dot Research on 14-19 May 2015 among more than 1,000 people over the age of 45 nationwide.
    * available on request.
    For further information or to interview an IGA spokesperson, please contact:

    Annabel Hillary, 07884 430862, annabel@prwhenyouneedit.co.uk
    or Mary-Jane Greenhalgh, 07866 722051, maryjane@prwhenyouneedit.co.uk
    or Karen Brewer on: DD: 01233 64 81 69; M: 07976 08 52 40; k.brewer@iga.org.uk,

    About the International Glaucoma Association:
    1. The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) is the charity for people with glaucoma, with the mission to raise awareness of glaucoma, promote research related to early diagnosis and treatment, and to provide support to patients and all those who care for them. For more information, please visit: www.glaucoma-association.com

    2. Set up in 1974, it is the oldest patient based glaucoma association in the world and it is a Charity Registered in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England & Wales.

    3. As part of its support services, it operates the IGA Sightline (helpline) and provides free information on any aspect of glaucoma.
    4. For more information about glaucoma, contact the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) Sightline on 01233 64 81 78 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am–5.00pm).

    Read more

  • Scots Over 45 Shun Eye Tests Which Could Protect their Driving Licence and Vision

    Millions of drivers over the age of 45 could be risking losing their driving licence and potentially their vision, by not taking an eye test every 1-2 years as recommended by the International Glaucoma Association (IGA). According to a new survey of 1,000 adults over the age of 45 commissioned by the IGA, 23% of Scots surveyed haven’t had an eye test in the last five years, compared with the national average of 18% who haven’t had a test in the last five years. The survey also showed a marked difference between men and women nationally, as 21% of men said they hadn’t had an eye test in the last two years, compared with 16% of women.

    The IGA commissioned the survey for National Glaucoma Awareness Week (8th-14th June 2015). This year’s campaign, ‘Can You See to Drive?’, encourages people to have regular eye health checks to ensure that they are safe to drive. It is only with regular eye health checks through a local optometrist (optician) that people will know if their driving vision is affected. This is particularly important with glaucoma as it has no symptoms in the early stages, but, with early detection and continued treatment people will often retain useful sight for life and will be safe to drive for many years. In fact only 13% of Scots surveyed correctly knew there are no early symptoms of glaucoma.

    There are an estimated 600,000 people with glaucoma in the UK, but 300,000 are undiagnosed. Advanced glaucoma leads to serious loss of sight. As there are no early symptoms of the condition, it is vital people over the age of 40 have regular eye health checks every one or two years.

    The IGA survey suggests that lack of time and money could be preventing people from having eye tests, as when asked for reasons for not having an eye test, 38% of Scots worry about the cost, 22% said it takes too much time and 13% said they don’t think they need a test. Nationally, men are more likely than women to think they don’t need an eye test: 17% compared with 7%.

    People with glaucoma that has caused damage to vision in both eyes are required by law to report their condition to the DVLA. If they fail to do so they can face a criminal conviction, a fine up to £1000 and may be uninsured to drive. The IGA is concerned that its survey showed 6% of Scots surveyed wouldn’t report glaucoma to the DVLA if advised by a health professional, either because they think it would stop them from driving, or because they don’t think they need to.

    Nationally, men are much more likely than women to withhold information from the DVLA: 10% and 3% respectively.

    No less worrying was the fact that 6% of men surveyed nationally said they have had, or nearly had, a car accident owing to their own, or someone else’s poor sight, compared with just 2% of women who said this.

    John Hughes, Business Development Manager for the International Glaucoma Association in Stirlingshire comments, “The majority of us wouldn’t take our cars on the road without an annual service and MOT yet, we are happy to put ourselves behind the wheel without knowing if we can see safely to drive. A visit to the optometrist will quickly check our vision safety and detect if there is any risk of glaucoma. Without regular checks the condition can go unnoticed, causing serious sight loss and the possible loss of a driving licence.”

    “Around 10 per cent of the calls we receive to our helpline (01233 64 81 78) are from people worried about whether their glaucoma is going to affect their ability to drive. Yet the majority of those that report to the DVLA will not need further tests, and of those that do, the majority will be found safe to drive”, Hughes concludes.
    Glaucoma – What You Need to Know:
    • Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions in which the main nerve to the eye (the optic nerve) is damaged where it leaves the eye. This nerve carries information about what is being seen from the eye to the brain and as it becomes damaged vision is lost.
    • Glaucoma is more common in people over the age of 40. There is at least a four times increased risk of developing glaucoma if you have a close blood relative with the condition (father, mother, brother, sister, or child).
    • There are no early symptoms of glaucoma
    • Symptoms of advanced glaucoma include missing, patchy vision and even serious loss of vision
    • Regular eye health checks (every two years, or every 1-2 years for over 40s) will detect conditions such as glaucoma, which is important given there are no early symptoms
    • With regular treatment for glaucoma, vision and driving licences can be protected
    • Most people with glaucoma will be safe to drive for many years, but it important to alert the DVLA to the condition if advised by an ophthalmologist.
    • The majority of people (nine out of 10) who report glaucoma to the DVLA will be passed as safe to drive (DVLA 2013*)
    • The IGA has a leaflet on glaucoma and driving, which is approved by the DVLA, which can be accessed by visiting www.glaucoma-association.com or via Sightline by calling 01233 64 81 78
    • The IGA is working with Vision Express in raising awareness of glaucoma during National Glaucoma Week. Activity includes placement of promotional posters, leaflets and collection boxes in Vision Express’ 390 stores nationwide.

    -ENDS-

    Note to editors:
    The survey was commissioned by the IGA through Red Dot Research on 14-19 May 2015 among more than 1,000 people over the age of 45 nationwide.
    * available on request.
    For further information or to interview an IGA spokesperson, please contact:

    Annabel Hillary, 07884 430862, annabel@prwhenyouneedit.co.uk
    or Mary-Jane Greenhalgh, 07866 722051, maryjane@prwhenyouneedit.co.uk
    or Karen Brewer on: DD: 01233 64 81 69; M: 07976 08 52 40; k.brewer@iga.org.uk,

    About the International Glaucoma Association:
    1. The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) is the charity for people with glaucoma, with the mission to raise awareness of glaucoma, promote research related to early diagnosis and treatment, and to provide support to patients and all those who care for them. For more information, please visit:www.glaucoma-association.com

    2. Set up in 1974, it is the oldest patient based glaucoma association in the world and it is a Charity Registered in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England & Wales.
    3. As part of its support services, it operates the IGA Sightline (helpline) and provides free information on any aspect of glaucoma.
    4. For more information about glaucoma, contact the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) Sightline on 01233 64 81 78 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am–5.00pm).

    Read more

  • Northern Irish Over 45 Shun Eye Tests Which Could Protect their Driving Licence and Vision

    Millions of drivers over the age of 45 could be risking losing their driving licence and potentially their vision, by not taking an eye test every 1-2 years as recommended by the International Glaucoma Association (IGA). According to a new survey of 1,000 over 45s, commissioned by the IGA, 25% of Northern Irish surveyed said they had not had an eye test in the last five years, compared to the national average of 14% who haven’t had an eye test in the last five years. The survey also showed a marked difference between men and women nationally, as 21% of men said they hadn’t had an eye test in the last two years, compared with 16% of women.

    The IGA commissioned the survey for National Glaucoma Awareness Week (8th-14th June 2015). This year’s campaign, ‘Can You See to Drive?’, encourages people to have regular eye health checks to ensure that they are safe to drive. It is only with regular eye health checks through a local optometrist (optician) that people will know if their driving vision is affected. This is particularly important with glaucoma as it has no symptoms in the early stages, but, with early detection and continued treatment people will often retain useful sight for life and will be safe to drive for many years. In fact 33% of Northern Irish did not know what glaucoma is, compared with the national average of 16% who don’t have any knowledge of the condition. Also, only 17% of Northern Irish surveyed correctly knew there are no early symptoms of glaucoma.

    There are an estimated 600,000 people with glaucoma in the UK, but 300,000 are undiagnosed. Advanced glaucoma leads to serious loss of sight. As there are no early symptoms of the condition, it is vital people over the age of 40 have regular eye health checks every one or two years.

    The IGA survey suggests that lack of time and money could be preventing people from having eye tests, as when asked for reasons for not having an eye test, 46% of Northern Irish surveyed worry about the cost, 17% said they don’t think they need a test and 12% said it takes too much time. Nationally, men are more likely than women to think they don’t need an eye test: 17% compared with 7%.

    People with glaucoma that has caused damage to vision in both eyes are required by law to report their condition to the DVLA. If they fail to do so they can face a criminal conviction, a fine up to £1000 and may be uninsured to drive. The IGA is concerned that its survey showed 16% of Northern Irish surveyed wouldn’t report glaucoma to the DVLA if advised by a health professional, either because they think it would stop them from driving, or because they don’t think they need to, compared with the national average of 5% who wouldn’t report the condition.

    Nationally, men are much more likely than women to withhold information from the DVLA: 10% and 3% respectively.

    No less worrying was the fact that nationally, 6% of men surveyed said they have had, or nearly had, a car accident owing to their own, or someone else’s poor sight, compared with just 2% of women who said this.

    Russell Young, CEO of the International Glaucoma Association comments, “The majority of us wouldn’t take our cars on the road without an annual service and MOT yet, we are happy to put ourselves behind the wheel without knowing if we can see safely to drive. A visit to the optometrist will quickly check our vision safety and detect if there is any risk of glaucoma. Without regular checks the condition can go unnoticed, causing serious sight loss and the possible loss of a driving licence.”

    “Around 10 per cent of the calls we receive to our helpline (01233 64 8 178) are from people worried about whether their glaucoma is going to affect their ability to drive. Yet the majority of those that report to the DVLA will not need further tests, and of those that do, the majority will be found safe to drive”, Young concludes.
    Glaucoma – What You Need to Know
    • Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions in which the main nerve to the eye (the optic nerve) is damaged where it leaves the eye. This nerve carries information about what is being seen from the eye to the brain and as it becomes damaged vision is lost.
    • Glaucoma is more common in people over the age of 40. There is at least a four times increased risk of developing glaucoma if you have a close blood relative with the condition (father, mother, brother, sister, or child).
    • There are no early symptoms of glaucoma
    • Symptoms of advanced glaucoma include missing, patchy vision and even serious loss of vision
    • Regular eye health checks (every two years, or every 1-2 years for over 40s) will detect conditions such as glaucoma, which is important given there are no early symptoms
    • With regular treatment for glaucoma, vision and driving licences can be protected
    • Most people with glaucoma will be safe to drive for many years, but it important to alert the DVLA to the condition if advised by an ophthalmologist.
    • The majority of people (nine out of 10) who report glaucoma to the DVLA will be passed as safe to drive (DVLA 2013*)
    • The IGA has a leaflet on glaucoma and driving, which is approved by the DVLA, which can be accessed by visiting www.glaucoma-association.com or via Sightline by calling 01233 648170
    • The IGA is working with Vision Express in raising awareness of glaucoma during National Glaucoma Week. Activity includes placement of promotional posters, leaflets and collection boxes in Vision Express’ 390 stores nationwide.

    -ENDS-

    Note to editors:
    The survey was commissioned by the IGA through Red Dot Research on 14-19 May 2015 among more than 1,000 people over the age of 45 nationwide.
    * available on request.
    For further information or to interview an IGA spokesperson, please contact:

    Annabel Hillary, 07884 430862, annabel@prwhenyouneedit.co.uk
    or Mary-Jane Greenhalgh, 07866 722051, maryjane@prwhenyouneedit.co.uk
    or Karen Brewer on: DD: 01233 64 81 69; M: 07976 08 52 40; k.brewer@iga.org.uk,
    For more information about glaucoma, visit: www.glaucoma-association.com
    About the International Glaucoma Association:
    1. The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) is the charity for people with glaucoma, with the mission to raise awareness of glaucoma, promote research related to early diagnosis and treatment, and to provide support to patients and all those who care for them. For more information, please visit:

    www.glaucoma-association.com
    2. Set up in 1974, it is the oldest patient based glaucoma association in the world and it is a Charity Registered in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England & Wales.
    3. As part of its support services, it operates the IGA Sightline (helpline) and provides free information on any aspect of glaucoma.
    4. For more information about glaucoma, contact the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) Sightline on 01233 64 81 78 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am–5.00pm).

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  • Can you see to drive? National Glaucoma Awareness Week 2015

    The focus for National Glaucoma Awareness Week, 8-14 June 2015 is on driving and encouraging people to have regular eye health checks to ensure that they are safe to drive. It is only with regular eye health checks through a local optometrist (optician), that people will know if their driving vision is affected. This is particularly important with glaucoma, as it has no symptoms in the early stages. But, with early detection and continued treatment people will often retain useful sight for life and be safe to drive for many years.

    Driving and our ability and safety to do so, is something that many people take for granted. Yet, how many people have a regular eye health check to ensure that their vision is accurate? Even if a person can see a number plate at 20 metres, how many have been tested for glaucoma which affects vision?

    There is an estimated 600,000 people with glaucoma in the UK, but 300,000 are undiagnosed. As there are no early symptoms it is vital that people over the age of 40 have regular eye health checks every one or two years. Advanced glaucoma leads to serious loss of sight.

    Comments Russell Young, CEO of the International Glaucoma Association “the majority of us wouldn’t take our cars on the road without an annual service and MOT yet, we are happy to put ourselves behind the wheel without knowing if we can see safely to drive. A visit to the optometrist will quickly check our safety and detect if there is any risk of glaucoma. Glaucoma is a complex condition, in that the brain fills in what the eyes cannot see. Many people will insist their vision is perfectly normal even when there is significant loss of vision”.

    “Around 10 per cent of the calls we receive to our helpline are from people worried about whether their glaucoma is going to affect their ability to drive. Yet the majority of those that report to the DVLA will not need further tests, and of those that do most will be found safe to drive”, Young continues.

    Glaucoma causes misty, patchy or blurred vision in places. It can cause people to miss the unexpected such as a person crossing the road, a cyclist passing, or a vehicle merging into traffic. The only way to know for sure about your vision and your safety on the roads is to have regular eye health checks every one to two years, particularly if you are over the age of 40.

    “It is important people know if they do have glaucoma that has caused damage to vision in both eyes, they are required by law to report their condition to the DVLA. If they fail to do so they can face a criminal conviction, a fine up to £1000 and may be uninsured to drive. The good news about glaucoma is with ongoing treatment people can protect their vision and most people will retain useful sight for life”, Young concludes.
    Further information about glaucoma and driving can be found on the IGA website, www.glaucoma-association.com or via the Sightline (helpline) on 01233 64 81 70. Awareness pack materials including posters, banners, Glaucoma and Driving leaflet can be ordered by emailing: marketing@iga.org.uk

    -ends-

    For further information about the week, please write to Karen Brewer (by post or email k.brewer@iga.org.uk, or phone 01233 64 81 69.

    Notes for editors:
    For further information or to interview an IGA spokesperson, please contact: Karen Brewer, Head of Marketing and PR on 01223 64 81 69 or email marketing@iga.org.uk

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  • National Glaucoma Awareness Week 2015: are you safe to drive?

    27 January 2015

    This year's National Glaucoma Awareness Week will take place on the 8 - 14 June 2015. The focus will be on driving and encouraging people to have regular eye health checks to ensure that they are safe to drive. It is only with regular eye health checks through a local optometrist, that people will know if their driving vision is affected. This is particularly important with glaucoma, as it has no early symptoms. But, with early detection and continued treatment people will often retain useful sight for life and be safe to drive for many years.

    Information packs including posters, leaflets, banners and facts on glaucoma and driving will be available for despatch in April. If you are interested in receiving a pack or would like to find out more about the week please email: marketing@iga.org.uk.

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  • Marking World Glaucoma Week, 8 - 14 March 2015

    4 March 2015

    Next week marks the beginning of World Glaucoma Week (8 - 14 March), where countries around the world raise awareness of the importance of regular eye health checks.

    The International Glaucoma Association will be highlighting the importance of regular eye health checks for people who are at an increased risk of glaucoma. Comments Russell Young, CEO of IGA:

    "With an estimated 300,000 people living with undetected glaucoma in the UK today, it is vital that more is done to reach groups who are at greater risk of glaucoma. This includes anyone over the age of 40, close blood relatives of people with glaucoma and African Caribbeans.” We are working with optometrists around the country to reinforce this message.

    Members of the IGA will also find out more about research that the IGA is funding via the AGM which is being held on Friday 13 March at The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining in London. Keynote presenters include Dr Paul Foster who heads up the UK BioBank Project and the Glaucoma Data Analysis Research Project; and Mr Ananth Viswanathan, who is the Chairman of the Honorary Medical Advisory Panel to the UK Secretary of State on Visual Disorders and Driving, and Consultant Surgeon at Moorfields.

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  • John Hughes IGA talks to Inverclyde Radio about glaucoma

    12 January 2015

    John Hughes, IGA Scottish Manager, discusses glaucoma and the importance of regular eye health checks, with radio presenter David Faller on Inverclyde Radio. John also provides information about the latest guidelines that will be in place to help with the detection and management of glaucoma, due to be published in March 2015.

    To listen to the interview visit the Health Matters page http://www.inverclyderadio.scot/Health/

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  • The Lancet: Most commonly prescribed glaucoma drug reduces risk of vision loss by more than 50 per cent over 2 years

    19 December 2014

    Prostaglandin analogue eye drops, the most commonly prescribed treatment for glaucoma, can greatly reduce risk of vision loss in people with open angle glaucoma (OAG), one of the leading causes of blindness, according to the first placebo-controlled trial to assess their vision-preserving effect published in The Lancet.

    “Medication to lower raised eye pressure has been used for decades as the main treatment for OAG to delay progressive vision loss. But, until now, the extent to which the most frequently prescribed class of pressure-lowering drugs (prostaglandin analogues) have a protective effect on vision was not known” *, explains David Garway-Heath, lead author and International Glaucoma Association Professor of Ophthalmology at the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London, UK. “Our findings offer solid proof to patients and practitioners that the visual deterioration caused by glaucoma can be reduced using this treatment.”*

    OAG is the most common form of glaucoma affecting more than 550000 people in England and Wales and about 45 million worldwide, projected to increase to 53 million in 2020 and 80 million in 2040 [1]. Vision loss from glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve is damaged. In most cases, increased pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure), is thought to contribute to this damage.

    The United Kingdom Glaucoma Treatment Study (UKGTS) recruited 516 newly diagnosed, previously untreated individuals with OAG from 10 hospitals across the UK.

    Half were randomly assigned to daily pressure-lowering eye drops (latanoprost 0.005%) and the other half to a matching placebo. Over the course of 2 years, participants underwent frequent visual field tests to identify glaucoma deterioration to an extent that would not be noticed by the patient.

    In the 59 patients in the placebo group and 35 patients in the latanoprost group whose vision deteriorated during the study period, the risk of visual deterioration was over 50% lower in the group treated with daily pressure-lowering eye drops compared to those using placebo drops over 2 years. Importantly, a significant difference in treatment effects could be seen between the groups after just 12 months. Eighteen serious adverse events were reported (9 in the placebo group and 9 in the latanoprost group) but none were viewed as related to latanoprost.

    According to Professor Garway-Heath, “Normally, observation periods in trials are at least 5 years. We have shown that with more frequent testing, data can be collected using shorter observation periods. This will bring considerable benefits including speeding up novel drug development, reducing costs, and increasing the likelihood of bringing new drugs to patients.”*

    Writing in a linked Comment, Dr Anders Heijl from Lund University, Malmö, Sweden, points out, “Since modern glaucoma treatment is based on reduction of intraocular pressure, and because glaucoma management uses about 25% of all ophthalmology resources, this is a fundamental issue in ophthalmic care…These results should motivate careful clinical follow-up and monitoring of disease progression in patients with glaucoma, and should also serve as a stimulus to the pharmaceutical industry to continue development of new and even more potent drugs.”

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