Lion Breweries gets behind Glaucoma Awareness Appeal

Kerry Stewart doesn't let his diagnosis affect the way he lives -  he still gets out on the water whenever he can.
Samantha Smith

Kerry Stewart doesn't let his diagnosis affect the way he lives - he still gets out on the water whenever he can.

Kerry Stewart didn't have any warning signs of glaucoma.

A family member was diagnosed with it so the whole family got their eyes checked.

Stewart was the only one diagnosed with the disease and he's thankful he caught it before he had any real issues with his sight.

July is Glaucoma Awareness Month.
Jason Oxenham

July is Glaucoma Awareness Month.

Glaucoma is a disease that progresses without those afflicted being aware anything is wrong. A person can be legally blind before they notice the symptoms.

The optic nerve fibres progressively die, taking away peripheral vision first. Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in New Zealand and has strong hereditary links.

The Lion Breweries reliability team leader is now heading the Glaucoma Awareness Month at the company's East Tamaki site throughout July 

He says the company really does care about its staff so throughout the month it is trying to get the eyesight of all of its staff checked.

"It has definitely got people thinking about this problem which is a great start. It's great that they encourage different health-related topics each month to focus on." 

Stewart was diagnosed in February 2014 when his optometrist had concerns about what he saw and referred him for specialist analysis.

"I was a little nervous, especially considering I had 20/20 vision and no obvious symptoms," he says.

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"I guess I had already learned enough to know that there were options to manage this condition and trusted my specialist to give me the right advice."

Stewart is now undergoing specialist treatment, as well as a laser treatment called laser trabeculoplasty.​

"This is a pretty simple pain-free procedure that opens up the fluid drains in my eyes and relives the pressure build-up.

"I should outlive any serious vision loss as long as I get my checkups and follow the advice given; pretty simple and easy considering the consequences if I don't."

Stewart says having glaucoma should not affect anyone's way of life as long as they catch it early.

"Get your eyes examined. It's half-an-hour out of your life that could prevent you having serious vision problems.

"This is a manageable condition so don't procrastinate."

GLAUCOMA IN NEW ZEALAND

* Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in New Zealand.

* It affects 2 per cent of the population over the age of 40  and one in every 10 adults over the age of 70.

* Although older people are at a higher risk, people of all ages, including babies and young adults, can get it.

* It is known as the "silent thief of sight" because it is a disease of the eye that can remain without symptoms for years while visual loss slowly occurs.

* With proper care less than 2per cent of patients with glaucoma will go blind.

* Go to glaucoma.org.nz for more information.

 - Stuff

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