Family Focus for National Glaucoma Awareness Week 2016 as IGA Urges Regular Eye Checks for Families of Glaucoma Patients

For this year’s National Glaucoma Awareness Week, 6-12 June, The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) is focusing on the need for close relatives of a known glaucoma patient, to have regular eye checks to prevent possible sight loss. Parents, children, brothers or sisters are up to four times more likely to develop glaucoma, when compared to people without a family history of glaucoma*.

IGA NGAW 2016 - Family Tree

It is estimated that there are 600,000 people with glaucoma in the UK today, but half are undiagnosed. It is the most common cause of preventable blindness, yet many people are unaware that glaucoma has no symptoms in the early stages. But, if left untreated glaucoma can lead to serious loss of vision, with up to 40 per cent of sight being permanently lost before the effects are noticed by the individual.  Once sight is lost it cannot be recovered.

Regular eye checks

Russell Young CEO of the IGA comments: “Our research has shown that one in three people (32 per cent)[i] diagnosed with glaucoma did not know glaucoma can be inherited. This is worrying given the increased risk that relatives have of developing the condition. When it comes to the general public, awareness of the inherited link is significantly lower, with only 49 per cent[ii] being aware of the link with family history.”

Continues Russell, “We regularly hear from people who have irretrievably lost their sight to glaucoma, as they haven’t had regular eye health checks.  People are often angry and upset, to know that a quick and regular visit to their high street optometrist would have detected the condition. It is critical that family members have regular eye health checks throughout life, at least every two years, and more regularly if advised by a health professional. The earlier treatment starts the more likely that someone will retain useful sight for life.”

The IGA believes that everyone should have regular eye health checks, at least every two years and works with optometrists, eye clinic staff, voluntary groups and people across the country to help prevent sight loss unnecessarily. For people with a family history of glaucoma, eye checks are free in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for those aged over 40, and free in Scotland regardless of age.

Glaucoma Facts

  • Glaucoma is 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 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.

-ENDS-

Notes for editors:

  • *references available

For further information or to interview an IGA spokesperson, please contact: Karen Brewer, Head of Communications on 01233 64 81 69 or email marketing@iga.org.uk

Please see attached a case study of Hayley Mason’s glaucoma experience.  Further case studies are available on request: Hayley Mason Case study

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 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 and also 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 70 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am–5.00pm).

Close relatives in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can have a sight test and examination by an optometrist which is paid for by the NHS if they are aged over 40, and everyone is entitled to free testing over the age of 60. In Scotland, the NHS will pay for glaucoma examinations offered by optometrists, regardless of age.

[i] IGA Members research (n=977), 2014

[ii] IGA Research (Fly Research 2014)