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Eye exams help fight the 'sneak thief of sight'

Optometrist Gary McMullen carrying out an eye test.
Optometrist Gary McMullen carrying out an eye test.

Optometrist Gary McMullan is urging people to have regular eye exams in the fight against glaucoma.

Gary, from Monkseaton practice Robinson Optometrists, is the glaucoma lead for the local optical committee, works in the glaucoma service at South Tees Hospital, is a tutor for the glaucoma modules at Cardiff University and was one of the first optometrists in the UK to achieve the new professional Diploma in Glaucoma.

As part of World Glaucoma Week, which runs until Sunday, Gary is sharing some facts about the disease:

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause progressive damage to the main nerve of the eye (the optic nerve). Once incurred, visual damage is mostly irreversible, and this has led to glaucoma being described as the silent blinding disease or the sneak thief of sight.

Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness worldwide and accounts for approximately 10 per cent of registrations for blindness in the UK.

Due to the silent progression of the disease – at least in its early stages – up to 50 per cent of affected persons in the UK are not even aware of having glaucoma.

There is no cure for glaucoma as yet, and vision loss is irreversible. However medications can halt or slow-down any further vision loss. Therefore, early detection is essential to limiting visual impairment and preventing the progression towards severe visual handicap or blindness.

Community optometrists initiate more than 90 per cent of the glaucoma-related referrals directed to the hospital eye service.

He recommends that people see an optometrist on a regular basis. Everyone over the age of 40 should have an eye examination at least every two years.

Robinsons believes that investment in technology is paramount in the battle to pick up glaucoma in its earliest stages, including its 3D CT scanner which can measure the thickness of the optic nerve fibre layer, the layer that is lost in glaucoma. Book an appointment online at www.robinsonoptometrists.co.uk or by ringing 0191 2516102.