Thousands of people could be at risk of losing their sight and not even know, due to glaucoma - an eye disease often called ‘the silent thief of sight’.
So as this week is Glaucoma Awareness Week (June 28 - July 4), the eye specialists at the Newmedica clinics and surgical centres in Grimsby and Brigg are urging local people to get their eyes tested regularly to reduce their risk.
Glaucoma is a common eye condition where the optic nerve becomes damaged. It can lead to loss of vision if it's not diagnosed and treated early. Most common in older adults, it does not usually cause any symptoms to begin with and is often only picked up during a routine eye test.
And, as the risk of developing glaucoma is greater if a close relative has the condition, this year Newmedica are joining the charity Glaucoma UK in highlighting the importance of talking to loved ones about the disease.
Professor Bernie Chang, a consultant ophthalmologist and clinical director at the Newmedica clinics in Grimsby and Brigg, said: "People don’t usually know that glaucoma tends to run in families.
"You’re four times more likely to suffer from glaucoma if you have a close family member who has been diagnosed with the condition, which means it’s even more important that you get a regular eye test – especially as you get older or if you come from certain ethnic backgrounds, as these factors can also increase your risk.
"The risk is even higher for siblings - a brother or sister with glaucoma will increase your risk by up to ten times. It’s obviously important to know if you’re at higher risk, so you can act on it, so discussing it with your loved ones is a must."
There are some simple steps that can be taken to identify glaucoma sooner to help save your sight however, and Professor Chang advises that the most important one is to have an eye check every two years.
He added: "A lot of people think having an eye test is about choosing new glasses or contact lenses, and luckily for some it is, but for a significant number having an eye test provides early detection of a number of eye conditions – like glaucoma – and also some general health conditions which people don’t always realise an optician can see by looking into their eye."
"We know that a lot of people have missed their eye tests over the last year due to the pandemic, and we hope that this Glaucoma Awareness Week people will take a few minutes to book a test and those with the condition will urge loved ones to visit the opticians."
If you are diagnosed with glaucoma and need to be referred for treatment, the Newmedica clinics locally provide glaucoma management clinics for NHS patients.