Simple test could save your sight

By Kiri Gillespie

The sensation of a rogue eyelash creating a slight blur in Pamela Band's vision turned out to be a crucial sign that glaucoma was robbing her of her eyesight.

Ms Band has joined Tauranga MP Simon Bridges in calling on people aged over 40 to have their eyes tested for the blinding disease. Mr Bridges had his eyes examined yesterday at Langford Callard Optometrist.

``Once you hit a certain age, probably 40, you're a fool if you don't have a check up every few years. For 10 minutes of your life, you're ensuring good sight,'' Mr Bridges told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

``The eye is so important and we can take it for granted but without really good vision, life becomes so much more difficult, so it's really good to get this glaucoma check up.''

Glaucoma is the number one preventable cause of blindness in New Zealand.

About 68,000 New Zealanders aged over 40 have the disease but it is believed half of those people won't realise it.

Ms Band, 57, was diagnosed with glaucoma and now takes eye drops every day to help manage the condition.

``It was funny. I noticed when I was driving, it felt like an eyelash on my top lid of my left eye was in the way. I pulled the lid, thinking it was the lash, but it didn't go away. I remember it was when I would be driving from Papamoa beach to the Mount, into the light, but as soon as I would get into different light I would forget about it,'' Ms Band said.

``Now, if I cover my right eye, it looks like I'm looking through a mouth _ that kind of oval shape.''

Ms Band said the thing with glaucoma was by the time anyone noticed something as seemingly insignificant as a blur in their vision, it was already too late.

``It's like a silent thing. You just think that's for older people, which is not right. We can make it have more awareness. Anyone at 40 should get checked.''

Optometrist Mike Callard said glaucoma snuck up on people, rendering some blind in worst-case scenarios.

``The main issue of it is it's a symptomless problem. Most people will not be aware they have it until they have a test,'' Mr Callard said.

Glaucoma slowly removes a person's peripheral vision to the point where that person eventually sees through tunnel-like vision. ``At that point you are registered blind not because you can't actually see but you have no visible field,'' Mr Callard said.

The New Zealand Glaucoma Awareness Appeal takes place this month.

For information is available at

- Bay of Plenty Times

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