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.

The Dangers of Eye Rubbing: Why You Should Not Be Rubbing Your Eyes

Excessive eye rubbing can be highly dangerous in any given situation. Think about this, we wouldn’t be rubbing our eyes up against a keyboard but that’s basically what we’re doing when we touch our eyes without washing our hands.

We use our hands to do just about everything, from picking up and scanning our phone, using a keyboard, preparing and eating food, touching our hair, going to the bathroom, emptying the bins, and, well, most things we do in a day.

At any one time there are hundreds of thousands of tiny bacteria, and potentially viruses, living on our skin.

Then, our eyes get itchy, and before washing our hands, we instinctively take the same hand that we were using on the keyboard, up to our eyes and we rub them, without thinking about what we’ve just used our hands for. This is a severe problem.

Temporary relief after eye rubbing

We experience temporary relief when we rub our eyes because we stimulate our lacrimal glands which produce tears that lubricate and soothe the eyes resulting in them not feeling irritated.

By bringing our fingers up to our face we also transfer bacteria living on the hands like pseudomonas and staphylococcus which can increase the risk of eye infections.

Most of us have experienced itchy eyes. When we rub them, we get temporary relief, but it can actually make the itching worse and end up damaging the eyes.

Eye damage caused by excessive eye rubbing

If we rub our eyes too hard, we can break the tiny blood vessels around the eyes which causes those dark unwanted circles that we try to get rid of with homemade remedies or makeup.

If they keep feeling itchy, and we keep putting pressure on our eyes with our fingers, they will feel even more irritated, which can result in redness and puffiness.

After the temporary relief, they may feel even itchier and more irritated than before. Rubbing the eyes continually can also cause some people thinning of the cornea.

Excessive eye rubbing, whether due to chronic dryness, itchiness, or merely habit, should be addressed to avoid unpleasant consequences.

What to do when you have itchy eyes

If you have something stuck in your eye, clean your hands for at least 20 seconds, using soap and clean water and dry them with a clean towel, then, wash your eyes out with sterile saline or a lubricant eye drop.

When you feel tempted to touch your eyes, instead of itching them, reach for an eye drop to help soothe the irritation.

Artificial tears imitate natural tears. They can help stop the itch that makes you want to rub your eyes and will keep them hydrated.

If eye itchiness is a persistent problem, contact your local Eyecare Plus optometrist to book an appointment.

Poor Driver Eyesight: 1 in 5 Australian Drivers Can’t See Road Signs

A recent Optometry Australia survey reveals some startling facts about the difficulty drivers have seeing road signs.

The 2020 Vision Index report revealed that 19% of drivers, aged 35 to 54, struggle to see road signs when they’re driving during the day. At night the problem gets worse, with 25% admitting that they find it hard to read signs. This is a very startling fact and shows that the dangers of poor driver eyesight, especially at night, is a very concerning issue.

The serious dangers of poor driver eyesight

Not being able to see road signs obviously has serious safety issues.

Optometrist Sophie Koh, the national professional services adviser for Optometry Australia, is not surprised by the high figures. She believes there is “a myriad of reasons why people experience blurry vision when driving”.

Although many people struggle to see because they either need glasses, or are updating their existing ones, there are non-glasses related reasons for blurred distance vision when driving home after a long day in the office such as “dry eyes and eye fatigue due to prolonged near work during the day,” says Koh.

People age 35 to 54 also start to develop common preventable eye diseases, such as early cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

Cataracts, for example, at its early stages, causes increased glare sensitivity when driving at night. People in this age group may complain of more glare from car headlights, which affects their clarity and confidence when driving.

Eyesight requirements to attain a driver’s license

Australian drivers in most states need to read an eye chart to pass the vision test in order to receive a driver’s licence. They also need to disclose if they have vision problems that could affect their ability to drive safely.

Eyesight issues must be listed as a condition on your licence in NSW, Victoria, SA and WA. If you have a condition listed on your licence and are found to be driving without glasses or contact lenses you could be fined or may receive demerit points.

“I think the public needs to be more aware that good vision for life is not just about how far down you see on an eye chart,” says Koh.

If you’re having trouble seeing road signs or you’re squinting to “see better”, like 22% of people do at night or 15% during the day, you need to book an eye test with your local optometrist to have your eyes checked.

Don’t risk it on the road, book an eye examination for a piece of mind

A visit to your optometrist will help you understand why you are struggling to see clearly when you’re driving. It is recommended that people under 40 have their eyes tested every two to three years, while people 40-65 should see their optometrist every two years and those over 65 should be tested annually.

If you are having troubles seeing roads signs visit your local Eyecare Plus practice to book your next eye test.

Coronavirus: Optometrists Are Taking Immediate Action

Optometrists in Australia are being proactive about putting in place procedures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which, the World Health Organisation has declared a global health emergency, only the sixth time the WHO has declared an international emergency of this kind.

The virus is reportedly spreading from person-to-person. According to NSW Health advice, a person can catch the virus if they’re in close proximity to an infected person after only 15 minutes.

Close contact means being face-to-face with an infected person for at least 15 minutes or being in the same room for at least two hours, as someone who has coronavirus when that person was infectious.

Patients preparing to see their optometrist will be asked two questions before all appointments and again on arrival at the optometry practice:

  • Have you returned from a coronavirus affected area in China in the past two weeks?
  • Have you returned from China with symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat or breathing difficulties?

If your answer is ‘Yes’ to either of the above questions health authorities in Australia have advised that it is safest for you to ‘not’ see your optometrist until after the incubation period of 14 days has passed.

As of early February, the coronavirus outbreak had killed more than 362 people and infected over 17,300 globally. It is now starting to spread beyond China with one person from the Philippines dead from the virus.

In Australia, it has been reported that there are currently 12 people diagnosed with the virus – four in NSW, four in Victoria, two in Queensland and two in South Australia.

Coronavirus initially causes flu-like symptoms of fever, coughing, sore throat and breathing difficulties. It can lead to pneumonia and in 2.9 percent of cases people will die from the virus, according to the Australian Department of Health.

The incubation period is often longer than other viruses such as the flu and can take two to 10 days to show symptoms. During the incubation period the virus remains contagious.

If you have travelled to an affected area and, within 14 days of travel, have developed a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath or if you have had contact with a person with confirmed coronavirus, you should isolate yourself from other people.

If you show these signs seek medical assistance straight away by contacting your GP or your emergency department or call the health direct helpline on 1800 022 222.

Common Australian Eye Health Myths & Facts

Australians regard their eyesight as their most important sense.

This was one of the main findings highlighted in the 2020 Vision Index Report released by Optometry Australia, the peak body for optometrists in Australia.

An apt year for the report to come out, with 2020, known as a term synonymous with perfect vision.

The report surveyed 1,000 Australians exploring their habits, beliefs and attitudes towards their eye health, and covered topics such as glasses, contact lenses, eye conditions, disease, nutrition, workplace, driving, sport and digital behaviour.

With 76% of us regarding our eyesight as our most important sense, 60% are worried about eyesight quality and more than half of us (57%) know we need a regular annual eye examination.

These key findings illustrate just how important Australians value their eyesight. For many, however, there is still a level of complacency about our sight, as more than a third of us (35%) don’t have regular eye checks and, incredibly, 12% of Australians have never seen an optometrist in their life.

In most cases we will only see an optometrist if we have problems seeing things, either; far away (82%) or up close (81%).

Nearly a third of us (31%) still believe the myth that if we eat carrots our eyesight will improve. And, whilst it originates from WW2 propaganda which popularised the notion that carrots help you see better in the dark, it doesn’t mean there isn’t an element of truth to it.

Carrots are high in antioxidants beta carotene and lutein; which a recent study showed has several beneficial effects on our eye health, including being able to improve or even prevent age-related macular disease, the leading cause of blindness and vision impairment.

Research has shown that a variety of vegetables containing lutein, and zeaxanthin, will help improve our eye health more than carrots, including spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, kale and corn.

The 2020 Vision Index report also shows the link between good eye health and preventable chronic diseases, highlighting that overall good eye health impacts our general health and wellbeing.

A regular appointment to see your optometrist covers much more than a prescription for your glasses. It also provides you with a comprehensive eye examination which can help identify eye conditions and diseases that, most of the time, can be treated if picked up early.

Visit your local Eyecare Plus practice for your next comprehensive eye exam.

7 Actionable Tips To Protect Your Eyes From Bushfire Smoke

As a result of worsening bushfire conditions across Australia, a thick dense smoke haze has smothered parts of the country for weeks on end resulting in people suffering from severe eye irritations, such as burning or itchy eyes. As a result, it has never been a more important time to stay on top of your eye health and take immediate steps to protect your eyes from hazardous bushfire smoke.

With the Air Quality Index pushed to record levels – beyond 500, over 2.5 times the ‘hazardous’ rating – in many cities and a suffocating 5,109 in Canberra on New Year’s Day, optometrists have seen an influx of patients with increased eye discomfort and irritation as a result of the extra particles in the air from the bushfire smoke.

Luke Arundel, Optometry Australia’s Chief Clinical Officer, suggests the following tips to help mitigate the burning and stinging effects of smoke to the eyes.

Protect your eyes from bushfire smoke by applying these simple 7 tips:

  • Lubricate – One of the best ways to alleviate irritation in your eyes is to lubricate them with eye drops or artificial tears which you can buy over the counter. People with underlying conditions already using eye drops may wish to double their application until the smoke dissipates.
  • Don’t rub – Be careful to NOT rub your eyes which can worsen the irritation.
  • Take a break from contacts – Contact lens wearers may find smoke particularly problematic and should give their eyes a break from contact lens use if their eyes are experiencing irritation.
  • Cool your eyes – Lying down with a cold compress over your eyes can be soothing.
  • Stay indoors – particularly if you have an underlying condition that makes you more sensitive to smoke, such as dry eye, it’s best to stay indoors as much as possible.
  • Wear glasses or goggles – Specialty goggles that are often prescribed to patients with dry eye can be an effective option for people experiencing sensitivity to smoke in the air. And close-fitting glasses or sunglasses will provide at least some barrier to particle pollution.
  • See your optometrist – If your symptoms persist, make an appointment to see your optometrist who may be able to prescribe a more specific treatment.

If you need help because you’re suffering from burning or stinging eyes, contact your local Eyecare Plus optometrist to book an appointment.

How to Relieve Digital Eye Strain

Just two hours in front of a digital screen can cause your eyes to feel strained. The average Australian spends 10 hours a day staring at some form of screen. This is not surprising given the increased dependency on computers, tablets and mobile devices for work and school.

Digital eye strain can be caused by:

  • Poor lighting
  • Screen glare and blue light
  • Improper viewing distance from devices
  • Not blinking enough
  • Poor posture

Digital eye strain affects all age groups but can be relieved by following a few easy steps.  

1. USE THE 20-20-20 RULE

Each time you use your digital device, take a 20 second break from the screen every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away. 

2. POSITION YOUR COMPUTER MONITOR

Keep your computer monitor at arm’s length for proper viewing distance and have the top of the monitor near or below eye level to avoid straining your eyes and neck. 

3. BLINK OFTEN

Remind yourself to blink frequently to prevent your eyes from drying out. 

4. GET REGULAR EYE TESTS

Unattended eye conditions may worsen digital eye strain. Make sure you have regular comprehensive eye tests every year, regardless of whether you are a heavy digital device user or not. 

5. CONSIDER BLUE LIGHT LENSES

Wearing glasses with blue light lenses is a popular way to decrease symptoms of digital eye strain. They look like regular glasses but feature a protective lens coating that helps filter out harmful blue light from reaching your eyes, keeping your eyes relaxed. 

Visit your local Eyecare Plus to find out more about blue light glasses available.

How Blue Light Affects your Eyes

Many of us spend the bulk of our day staring at digital screens. Reading this article means there’s a good chance you’re looking at one right now. Most screens emit blue light. 

Light visible to the human eye is made up the colours red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. These colours vary in wavelength and frequency. The blue, indigo and violet lights are higher frequency and energy. Studies suggest that, over time, exposure to these high energy blue lights could cause both short and long-term damage to your eyes.

Fluorescent and LED lights as well as LED screens found in televisions, computers and mobile phones emit high amounts of blue light. It is the blue light from devices held close to the eye that is most likely to cause eye strain and retinal damage due to their proximity to the eye.

Higher energy blue light flickers more than longer wavelengths of light. This flickering creates a glare that can reduce contrast and affect clarity. This can then cause eyestrain, headaches, physical and mental fatigue.

Our eyes natural filters don’t provide sufficient protection against blue light rays. Over the longer term, prolonged exposure to blue light may cause retinal damage and contribute to age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to permanent loss of vision. Chronic exposure to blue light has also been shown to have detrimental effects on our general health and disturb regular sleep patterns.

Exposure to blue light can be reduced with a coating on spectacle lenses that blocks the blue light. This can be applied to spectacles for everyday or simply ones designed for computer and screen use. Blue light filters can also be applied to specific screens that are used. These options can help you relieve digital eye strain.

Watch the below video to find out more about the affects of Blue Light.