Healthy Eyes and Good Vision

A healthy diet, active lifestyle and regular eye examinations can provide immediate and long term benefits to your eye health.

It is important to have a regular comprehensive eye exam so that your optometrist can detect vision problems or eye disease long before you are aware that a problem exists.

A recent report however stated that a high proportion of people feel that they should only see their optometrist if they have obvious problems such as not being able to see objects far away (82%) or up close (81%).

Many others (31%) believe that eating carrots is good enough to improve their eyesight.

Whilst carrots are high in antioxidants beta carotene and lutein, which have several beneficial effects on our eye health, there are many other vegetables which contain lutein and zeaxanthin which are better for our eyes. These include corn and leafy greens such as spinach, turnip greens, broccoli and kale which are full of antioxidants.

As well as these vegetables there are a number of other foods which can give our eyes a nutrient boost including fresh fruit, nuts and whole grains which contain vitamin E and omega-3 found in fish which can help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and slow the progress of cataracts.

Eating nutritious food for eye health can also help slow down or prevent the progression of many other diseases, aside from AMD and cataracts, including:

Dry Eye

This is caused by a chronic lack of moisture and lubrication on the surface of the eye. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, tuna and sardines or flaxseed oil supplements can help to reduce dry eye symptoms.

Retinal Vein Occlusion

This occurs when one of the veins in the retina becomes blocked. High cholesterol and diabetes are two diseases that can cause this eye condition.

Retinitis Pigmentosa

This is a genetic degenerative eye disease that can lead to blindness. A report has shown that people with the disease, over a four to six year period, who stick to a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids experience a slower decline in distance and visual acuities.

Diabetic Retinopathy

This is an eye disease in people who have diabetes which can cause vision loss and blindness. Exercise, a healthy lifestyle, and diet, not smoking and limiting alcohol consumption can help prevent this eye disease. Regular eye check-ups help to detect early symptoms, which may not be obvious. Avoid sugary drinks and foods with added artificial sugar such as processed and fast foods.

Eating for Eye Health

The Macular Disease Foundation Australia’s (MDFA) ‘Eating for Eye Health’ cookbook by Ita Buttrose and chef Vanessa Jones is loaded with delicious recipes made up of the foods we should eat to keep our eyes healthy.

The book features more than 90 recipes, carefully selected to make it easy to prepare delicious, nutritious meals that are good for our eye health featuring fish, yellow and dark green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, and nuts.

Contact your local Eyecare Plus optometrist to book your next eye examination.

Ita’s Plea: Don’t Let COVID-19 Fears Steal Your Vision

Australian icon Ita Buttrose has issued a passionate plea to senior Australians in a bid to avoid thousands of people going unnecessarily blind during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have an important message for our older and more vulnerable Australians living with macular disease, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia,” Ms Buttrose said.

Macular disease covers a range of conditions that affect the central retina (the macula) at the back of the eye. The most common are age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and diabetic retinopathy (DR), including diabetic macular edema (DME).

AMD accounts for 50% of blindness in Australia with one in seven Australians (approximately 1.29 million) over the age of 50 having some evidence of AMD.

“I’m concerned many people who need urgent, sight-saving eye injections for diseases like wet (neovascular) AMD and diabetic macular edema are not keeping their appointments with their ophthalmologists because of fear and confusion around public health protocols.

“Missing an eye injection can seriously and permanently compromise your vision. You must not miss your sight-saving treatment,” she said.

Macular Month Message

Ita Buttrose has been Patron of Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) for 15 years. She has a family history of AMD, with her father Charles and two of his siblings losing their sight to AMD. Thankfully, Ita’s uncle Gerald Buttrose, has retained his sight due to having regular eye injections for his wet AMD. He is now 96.

In May, during MDFA’s Macula Month, Ita Buttrose advocates for Australians over the age of 50 to see an optometrist for an eye examination, including a check of the macula.

“In a COVID-19 environment, our call to action is even more vital if we are to avoid thousands of people going unnecessarily blind on the other side of this pandemic,” warned Ms Buttrose.

“If you require injections for wet (neovascular) AMD or diabetic macular edema, or other macular conditions, it is essential that you attend your specialist appointment or discuss your treatment options with your ophthalmologist.

“Similarly, if you notice any sudden changes in your vision, or experience eye pain – even if you don’t have a diagnosed eye condition – it could be an eye emergency. It is vitally important that you contact your optometrist or ophthalmologist as soon as possible,” Ms Buttrose said.

Covid Fear Causes Cancellations

Despite reassurances from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) that eye injections are an essential treatment, ophthalmologists around Australia have seen a dramatic increase in the number of patients cancelling essential eye appointments.

“I understand that some people might be concerned about leaving their homes to get treatments,” Ms Buttrose said, “but I can assure everyone that clinics are sterile environments and stringent clinical guidelines have been put in place to ensure people’s safety.”

“Whether you are at home or living in aged care, these eye injections are vitally important to preserving sight.

“Many of you have lived through times of hardship, through wars, depressions, and times of national insecurity and anxiety. Once again, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves in an unexpected time of uncertainty, where clarity of communication and correct information is paramount.

Keep Scheduled Eye Injections

“I want to stress if you have a scheduled eye injection, if you are a family carer or someone who needs to take a person to a scheduled eye injection, and you have not been in contact with COVID-19, you are not breaching public health measures to attend that appointment. Obviously, if you are unwell, please phone first for advice.

“I understand people are apprehensive but keeping your sight must be your priority,” she said.

If you need advice about your eye health or want a free Amsler grid to monitor vision changes at home contact MDFA’s National Helpline on 1800 111 709 or your ophthalmologist or local Eyecare Plus Optometrist.

COVID-19: Top Tips for Healthy Vision

Although lockdown restrictions are slowly easing, the COVID-19 environment has caused most of us to change the way we live our lives and look after our vision.

Traditionally May is known as Macula Month, the time of year we focus on helping you understand the risks of macular disease – the most common being age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD is the single biggest cause of severe vision loss and blindness in Australia. Many people do not know they are at risk.

A comprehensive eye examination with your optometrist to check your macula will help you identify whether you are at risk of macular disease.

AMD Risk Factors

An easy way to remember AMD risk factors is to keep your vision S.A.F.E:

  1. Smoking

Smoking causes you to be four times more likely to develop AMD

  1. Age

One in seven people over the age of 50 have signs of AMD

  1. Family History

A family history is the main risk factor for AMD

  1. Eye Exams

A comprehensive eye exam is the only way to ensure AMD is picked up in its early stages

Healthy Vision Tips

While spending a lot more time at home, and out of your normal routine, it is important to know how to care for your eyes.

Here are four tips for keeping your eyes healthy and knowing the warning signs for when you need to seek help.

  1. Keep AMD Appointments

If you have already been diagnosed with a macular condition like wet AMD or Diabetic Macular Edema, and you are receiving eye injections or laser treatment, it is important to attend those appointments. Missing an urgent appointment for an eye injection or laser treatment can cause irreparable vision loss.

  1. Identifying Eye Emergencies

If you experience sudden changes in your vision, have eye pain or discomfort, new red eye symptoms, flashes of light or new floaters in your vision, recent eye trauma or new onset double vision – call your optometrist for advice immediately.

If you are concerned about leaving your home to go to an eye appointment, be assured that your local optometrist has put in place extra sterilisation and distancing protocols to ensure patient safety.

  1. The Amsler Grid

Use an Amsler Grid to help you detect changes in your vision. If you are over 50, use an Amsler grid once a week. It takes a minute or two. If you already have a diagnosed macular disease, use it daily. Your local optometrist will be able to provide you with an Amsler Grid.

  1. Have an Eye Healthy Diet

We encourage you to have an eye healthy diet that is rich in nutrients to support a healthy macula. It is as simple as eating oily fish a couple of times a week, eating plenty of dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily, and having a handful of nuts a week. Choose low glycemic index carbohydrates and limit your intake of fats. You can find recipe ideas by downloading a free Macula Menu from the Macular Disease Foundation.

If you have any questions about macular disease and whether you are at risk, or how to keep your vision safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact your local Eyecare Plus optometrist or the Macular Disease Foundation.

MDFA has a range of free publications, covering everything from disease information, to diet and supplements to support macular health. The National MDFA Helpline is 1800 111 709.

As restrictions ease, now is a good time to book a comprehensive eye examination with your local Eyecare Plus practice so they can check your macula to help you identify whether you are at risk of macular disease.

COVID-19: Helping Kids Reduce the Risk of Early Myopia

It is a number of weeks into self-isolation and as much as you try to get the kids outside to exercise their limbs and minds, they are constantly glued to their digital screens.

With Australian children doing school from home, they are spending significantly more time in front of their screens than they did before the COVID-19 outbreak, as a result parents have virtually given up on placing limits on the use of digital devices.

With all this extra screen time, how will your child’s vision be affected?

Spending more time indoors looking at screens and less time outside, will there be an increase in children developing myopia (short-sightedness)?

Will the increase of a reported 50% more time in front of their screens each day speed up the onset of myopia and increase prescription strength at a faster rate in the coming year?

About 40% of the world’s population has myopia and that figure is expected to rise to 50% by 2050.

Myopia causes objects further away to become more difficult to see. People who develop high myopia are at a much greater risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts much earlier in life.

So, what can you do to help your kids eye health during this time of enforced home isolation?

  1. Spend Time Outside

Take your kids outside to play or exercise for at least one hour (preferably two hours) a day to help prevent myopia from developing and progressing.

  1. Plan Fun Activities

There are hundreds of things you can do with your kids; from board games and puzzles to reading a paperback book, having an indoor camp out to creating an obstacle course in your backyard.

  1. Be a Healthy Screen Role Model

Kids watch what their parents do and reflect their behaviour. Be a role model of healthy screen use to your kids. Reduce the time you spend scrolling through your phone, reduce binge watching TV series and turn off the TV as background noise.

  1. Take Phone Breaks

Make sure that, for every half hour of screen time, your kids take a 10 minute break to walk around and stretch their legs.

  1. Reduce Digital Eye Strain

To help reduce the impact of Digital Eye Strain it is important that the screen is no closer than 40cm from your child’s face.

  1. Unplug from Devices

Allocate times in the day to unplug from devices. At dinner time place all the phones on a table away from where you are all eating. Before preparing for bed, place all your phones on charge in another room and spend some time just hanging out as a family.

  1. Type of Screen Time

Be mindful of both the type of screen time and the people your kids are sharing their screen time with, as well as the duration of time they spend looking at a screen. Excessive amounts of time spent looking at a screen can be harmful to your child’s health.

  1. Natural Light is Best

Encourage your kids to sit near a natural light source when they are on their device. Bright, natural light is better for their eyes. If they can’t sit close to a natural light source, ask them to sit near a window angled perpendicular to their computer screen. At night, have their screen placed to the side of a light source, not directly underneath.

If you have concerns about your child’s eye health or you want to know more about the early impact of myopia, contact your local Eyecare Plus practice.

Working at Home: Finding the Balance

It’s a very different world with most of us working from home.

According to a global workplace survey 88% of us have been encouraged or directed to work from home in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.

For most of us who haven’t worked from home before it’s a change that takes some considerable adjustment trying to balance both family and work needs.

It can be great. You can minimise workplace disruptions, work in your around-the-house clothes, hang out more with the family, avoid traffic and save money. What is there not to like!

Of course, there are some down sides.

People can feel isolated and believe they’re working too much. Time working from home can eat into family and personal time, it can create communication issues with colleagues and clients, it can become your sole focus, you can become easily distracted by your home environment and working from home can cause isolation and loneliness.

So, how do we find the right balance?

Time Management

It’s important to manage your time like you would a normal workday. Have set start and finishing times and take breaks, like you would in the office, or take a longer lunch so you can get outside and exercise. A daily work schedule helps you become more productive.

Make People Aware of Work Hours

Have a clearly defined space for work. Close the door if this helps your family or housemates know you’re working. Place a sign on the door that you’re working or wear work clothes, so people know you’re at work. It’s about creating visual boundaries.

Workplace Communications

Set up regular video conferencing meetings through Zoom, Skype or GoToMeetings to maintain good workplace relationships. Touch base with the team regularly. Discuss your work objectives. Provide weekly feedback to each other to help build team morale and achieve your goals.

Set Time to Exercise

You need to get up and move. Take breaks every half an hour to move your muscles and reset.

It’s easy to get trapped in a desk to loungeroom cycle without ever leaving the house. Taking breaks and setting deliberate times to go for a walk, exercise at a local park, walk up and down the stairs in your apartment or, if you live in a house, do some gardening, will help break up your day and get your heart rate up.

And finally,

Protect Your Eyes

It’s important to limit the amount of exposure you have to screens, whether that be your computer screen for work, your TV or mobile devices. Prolonged exposure to blue light from your screens can cause eye strain, blurred vision, eye irritation, dry eyes and itching.

To help diminish the impact of blue light, position your workspace so that you’re not looking directly at a light source or in a position so that glare isn’t hitting your computer screen. Add a desk lamp to add a softer lighting and reduce glare. To avoid eye strain, increase the font size on your computer and turn the brightness down.

Drink lots of water to keep your body, including your eye tissue, hydrated. Blinking more helps keep your eyes moist, particularly if you wear contact lenses. If you notice that you’re not blinking very often regularly add lubricating eye drops to keep them moist.

Apply the 20-20-20 rule to restore some balance and help reduce digital eye strain. The rule is simple. Every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, look an object in the distance, 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This eye exercise will give your eyes a much needed break.

COVID-19 Confusion Causes Risk of Increased Blindness

As a result of the fear and confusion around COVID-19, there is a massive increase in the number of people who could unnecessarily lose their sight to wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) due to cancelling eye health and macular degeneration treatment appointments.

Australians are required to stay at home, and only go out under certain conditions, in order to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus.

Although people can leave the house for essential services, some older Australians won’t leave at all for fear of contracting the coronavirus disease, even for essential eye health appointments that could help them save their sight.

One in seven Australians over the age of 50 have signs of AMD, and the incidence increases with age.

Wet AMD requires treatment for many years but because of the pervading fear around the virus, 33% of patients are cancelling this essential medical treatment.

Eye Injections Shouldn’t Be Cancelled

“Ophthalmologists are seeing a worrying increase in the number of people cancelling eye injections,” said Prof Paul Mitchell AO, internationally renowned ophthalmologist and National Research Advisor for Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA).

“In my own clinic, up to one third of patients with conditions such as wet (neovascular) age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) or diabetic macular edema (DME) are skipping these crucial appointments. Wet AMD needs treatment for many years, while DME or diabetic retinopathy mostly needs treatment for one year or so and may also need laser treatment. However, none of these people have, or are suspected to have, contracted the virus,” says Professor Mitchell.

“Projecting from my clinic, that means thousands of Australians are gambling with their vision. Without these regular injections, there’s a high risk that people will go blind or suffer significant vision loss, which is often then irreversible,” he says.

Essential Medical Treatment

Prof Mitchell said eye injections are considered essential medical treatment, while any sudden loss of vision in either eye, was an eye health emergency requiring urgent attention.

Ophthalmologists are rescheduling non-urgent appointments or treatments, but eye injections are “essential medical treatments and need to continue as scheduled,” says MDFA Medical Committee Chair A/Prof Alex Hunyor.

Social Distancing Protocols

Clinics are taking even stricter precautions now to protect patients and waiting rooms must comply with social distancing protocols.

“Many ophthalmology practices are asking patients to wait in their cars and calling them to come in only when required. Call ahead. Ask what extra protocols are in place, and what precautions you can take,” Dr Hunyor said.

People are anxious about possibly being fined for leaving the home to attend a medical appointment.

Prof Mitchell stresses that you shouldn’t cancel an essential scheduled eye injection.

“If you are a family carer, or someone who needs to take a person to a scheduled eye injection, you are not breaching public health measures to attend that appointment. Obviously. If the patient has the virus or has had contact with someone who has been infected, the ophthalmologist should be contacted by phone to re-schedule.’’

Self-Isolation Guidance

The Australian Government’s strong guidance is for all Australians to self-isolate, unless for essential medical or health care needs.

For their own protection, people age 70 and over (over 60 for people with pre-existing medical conditions, or over 50 for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people with pre-existing medical conditions) are strongly advised not to leave home unless absolutely necessary.

Wherever possible, people in this category should ask family, friends, neighbours or community members to shop for groceries or collect medicines for them.

Australians still need to take care of their eye health and attend scheduled treatment appointments during this novel coronavirus crisis.

The last thing anyone needs is to emerge from this pandemic with severe vision loss as a result of not treating a major eye disease like AMD or diabetic eye disease.

It is understandable that people are fearful.

For guidance on your eye health contact your ophthalmologist or referring Eyecare Plus optometrist to discuss your concerns and to ask questions. You can also call the Macular Disease National Helpline on 1800 111 709.

Macular Degeneration: Act Early to Save Your Sight

When Jessica Falon’s grandmother was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), she understood there was a strong family risk of getting the disease and decided to take an active approach to protecting her own sight.

Jessica (pictured with her mother and grandmother) is 23 years old and visits her local optometrist regularly for a comprehensive eye examination. She doesn’t smoke and has adopted an eye-friendly diet to support the health of her macula.

Jessica’s grandmother, Helen, was diagnosed with wet (neovascular) age-related macular degeneration, a condition that caused rapid deterioration of her central vision. There is effective sight-saving treatment for this form of the disease, but by the time Helen saw an optometrist, her condition was already quite advanced.

Today, Helen is legally blind.

Helen lost her husband many years ago. She is a very independent person who loves cooking but, she started to notice she was making mistakes which were unlike her, “like putting salt in food instead of sugar or not being able to find things,” says Jessica.

Losing her sight was gradual.

“It has been quite hard to watch her lose that independence.”

What is AMD?

AMD is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia. One in seven people over the age of 50 have signs of the disease, and the incidence increases with age. It is a painless, progressive disease that destroys central vision, leaving peripheral vision intact.

Reducing the Risks

There’s no cure for AMD, but you can reduce your risk.

Jessica has made a couple of simple changes to her life in order to help her vision.

“It’s not that big of a change really, but we make a habit of putting spinach in just about everything and plenty of oily fish!” she says.

Jessica can’t guarantee making those changes to her diet will stop her getting AMD but, in making these changes, she is supporting the health of her macula.

“I can get regular macula checks and monitor my vision as I get older. If I can better my chances in any way, it is got to be a big win.”

The Four Major AMD Risk Factors

There are four major risk and prevention factors for AMD:

  1. Smoking

Smokers have a three to four times higher risk of AMD than non-smokers

  1. Age

As you get older, the risk of getting AMD increases dramatically

  1. Family history

If you have an immediate family member with AMD, you have a 50% risk of getting it too

  1. Eye exams

A regular eye exam with your local Eyecare Plus optometrist will ensure early detection of AMD, giving you the best chance of preventing vision loss.

Proactive Lifestyle Changes

Jessica knows that while she’s a long way off the high-risk 50 plus age group, the changes she’s making now will help put her in a great position to prevent or delay the onset of AMD as she gets older.

“I understand the hereditary aspect of the disease and so even though the prospect of macular disease seems in the distant future, my sister and I have talked about our vision. We have an Amsler grid on the fridge, and we are incorporating macula friendly foods into our meals,” says Jessica.

If you know AMD is something in your family, have a conversation about it.

“I have seen just how much AMD impacts Nana and the changes I have made to my diet and lifestyle are so easy,” says Jessica.

The Macular Disease Foundation Australia offers free advice and support for people at risk of, or living with, macular disease, including AMD and diabetic eye disease.

To find out more about macular degeneration, contact your local Eyecare Plus optometrist or call the National Macular Disease Helpline on 1800 111 709.

Glaucoma: The Patient Journey

Glaucoma management can be a major challenge for a patient.

Whilst a person must adhere to the advice from their eye care professional about how to take their medication, often, as it is with many other chronic diseases, glaucoma can have poor patient adherence.

In fact, it is estimated that one-third of glaucoma patients don’t take their medication as prescribed.

To help improve care management, there are four key stages a patient goes through in the glaucoma journey.

Stage One: Seeing eye care professionals

Once you’ve seen your optometrist and they suspect glaucoma, they will provide you with a glaucoma treatment plan or refer you to an ophthalmologist. At this stage, adherence is essential but many patients can be left untreated because they don’t follow through with appointments. It is critical that once early diagnosis of glaucoma is confirmed, treatment starts straight away.

Stage Two: 1-3 months post-diagnosis

It can be very scary for a person to discover that they have glaucoma.

There is a lot of information to take on board and an individual can only handle so much in a consultation. This is a stage where you, as a patient, will likely have many questions. Write down your questions when you think of them and have them ready for when you see your eye care team.

It is important at this stage to ask all the questions you have of your eye care professional. They can provide you with answers to your questions.

Glaucoma Australia is also available to provide you with a range of support and treatment resources to help you during this time.

Stage Three: 5-6 months post-diagnosis

Several months after you’ve been diagnosed with glaucoma, you move into the third stage of care.

This stage is a crucial point in the ongoing care of a glaucoma patient.

Glaucoma Australia report that only 36 to 50% of patients adhere to their eye drop regime within the first 12 months.

Adherence to your treatment regime, particularly in those first 12 months, is critical to your long-term eye health.

Glaucoma Australia can help you during this stage by staying in touch to find out if you’re having difficulties with the treatment regimen.

Along with your eye care professional, Glaucoma Australia can provide you with education and support to help resolve any problems you may have.

Your team can discuss the importance of ongoing monitoring for glaucoma so that your treatment regimen can be adjusted if required.

Stage Four: 12 months ongoing

After 12 months of living with glaucoma you are in your treatment routine and it’s all about getting on with life.

Glaucoma Australia can help improve your knowledge of glaucoma by sending you monthly email newsletters and, if needed, you can call their free helpline and educator.

Providing personalised phone-based support and automated email communications at each of these stages improves a person’s knowledge of the disease. It helps highlight the importance of treatment and appointment adherence which is specifically aimed at saving a person’s sight.

Glaucoma Australia can provide patients with information about glaucoma, medication advice and ongoing support including individualised behavioural strategies to help improve adherence.

Don’t allow glaucoma to blindside you.

Patients who are living with glaucoma are not alone. Your local Eyecare Plus optometrist and Glaucoma Australia will work with you to help you on the glaucoma journey.

Glaucoma: Don’t be Blindsided

When I got glaucoma it really hit home at how lucky I was to not lose my sight,” says Kirk Pengilly, iconic rock legend and glaucoma patient.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. It is a disease of the optic nerve which affects 300,000 Australians.

There are no warning signs of the disease’s onset and due to glaucoma having little to no symptoms, 50% of those impacted by the disease are not aware that they have it.

Because early signs can go undetected glaucoma might only be noticed when a significant amount of nerve fibres have been permanently damaged.

World Glaucoma Week: Don’t Be Blindsided

Pengilly, fronts Glaucoma Australia’s risk awareness campaign ‘Don’t Be Blindsided’ in support of World Glaucoma Week (8-14 March 2020).

The ‘Don’t be Blindsided’ campaign urges Australians to have their eyes checked by an optometrist every two years to prevent the irreversible damage caused by glaucoma if left untreated.

While people over the age of 50 and those with a family history of glaucoma are most at risk, Pengilly is proof that anyone can be blindsided by this insidious disease.

Kirk Pengilly was 29 years old when he found out he had glaucoma. His personal experience shows that glaucoma can happen to anyone as he and his family had no history of the disease.

His plea is for Australian’s to have their eyes tested regularly as early detection and intervention is the key to saving a person’s eyesight.

An eye test is quick and painless and could be the difference between losing your vision, or not. Don’t let glaucoma blindside you, have an eye exam this World Glaucoma Week,” says Pengilly.

Glaucoma Risk Factors

You are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma if you:

  • Have a family history of glaucoma
  • Have high eye pressure
  • Are aged 50 or over
  • Are of African or Asian descent
  • Have diabetes
  • Are short or long sighted
  • Have been on a prolonged course of cortisone (steroid) medication
  • Experience migraines
  • Have had an eye operation or eye injury
  • Have a history of high or low blood pressure

How To Detect Glaucoma

A comprehensive eye exam is the only way glaucoma can be detected. It is not something you can detect yourself.

There are no symptoms or warning signs in the early stages of this disease.

Glaucoma slowly damages your vision without you being aware as your other eye tends to compensate for the initial vision loss.

The loss of sight from glaucoma is very gradual and a large amount of peripheral vision could be lost well before there is an awareness that you have the disease. Once the nerve fibres have been damaged vision loss can’t be restored.

In Australia, 2-3% of the total population will develop glaucoma.

Immediate relatives of a person with glaucoma have an almost 1 in 4 chance of developing the disease in their lifetime. Older people are at a higher risk as 1 in 8 Australians over 80 will develop glaucoma.

All Australians over the age of 50 should see their optometrist every two years for a comprehensive eye exam.

If you have a family history of glaucoma or are of Asian or African descent it is recommended that you get your eyes checked every two years from the age of 40.

To find out more about glaucoma visit Glaucoma Australia or make an appointment at your local Eyecare Plus optometrist.

The Coronavirus & Its Impact On The Eyes: Be Alert, Not Alarmed

In the middle of a vacant oval, a person is wearing a surgical mask, jogging. At the airport, a security guard is wearing a mask, black around the mouth and nose from having it on continuously for the week. A guy at the shops wears a bag over his head to try to protect himself from the coronavirus (COVID-19) whilst another person wears grapefruit rind for a mask.

Because of some of the messaging around the coronavirus, people are fearful and will go to extreme lengths to fight this disease.

There is a lot of fear about the coronavirus and fear acts as a core driver that fuels concern, misinformation and ultimately, panic.

How the Coronavirus may impact your eyes

One concern many people have is whether you can contract coronavirus through your eyes.

This discussion emanates from a Peking respiratory physician who believed he may have contracted the virus because he wasn’t wearing sufficient eye protection while treating patients.

Although he was vigilant and wore an N95 mask, he said he developed conjunctivitis, then fevers, and felt this was because he wasn’t wearing protective glasses.

Medical officials say that whilst this is possible, it is very unlikely the virus entered his body through his eyes.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology there are “anecdotal reports” suggesting that “the virus can cause conjunctivitis and possibly be transmitted by aerosol contact with conjunctiva”.

It’s “plausible but unlikely” that the disease could spread this way says Dr. Stephen Thomas, Chief of Infectious Diseases at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York.

How the Coronavirus spreads

The coronavirus spreads from person-to-person through airborne “respiratory droplets,” via the mouth or nose and enters the respiratory system much like the flu virus.

The surgical mask people wear provides some protection, but it should only be worn for 30 minutes to two hours at the most. The longer you wear a mask, the less effective it becomes and as soon as it’s wet from your breath it needs to be thrown away and replaced.

The coronavirus virus is spreading quickly. As of 24 February, 2,500 people had died from the virus out of a reported 79,000 confirmed cases in more than 30 countries and territories. In Australia, 22 people had tested positive.

Although the risk of a coronavirus infected patient presenting to an optometry practice in Australia is extremely low, optometrists will continue to routinely ask patients before their appointment and on arrival at the practice if they have returned from China in the previous couple of weeks.

The discussion around protecting yourself from the coronavirus is important because it causes people to be more vigilant about protecting themselves from potentially life-threatening viruses.

Don’t be alarmed, simply apply best hygiene practices

Whilst it’s good to be mindful of the coronavirus, it’s important not to be alarmed.

The things people are doing to protect themselves from the disease are the very things you’d do against the flu (outside of getting the flu shot): wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds, use hand sanitiser, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed fingers and, if you’re sick, stay home.

The seasonal flu is of greater concern to health authorities which the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates has resulted in up to 61,000 deaths from between nine million to 45 million cases each year for the past 10 years.

If you are concerned about your eye health, contact your local Eyecare Plus optometrist to book an appointment.