Get an eye test - you could be going blind, CDHB member Andy Dickerson says
Andy Dickerson had no symptoms, no family history, and good eyesight – but he was going blind.
The Canterbury District Health Board member is sharing his story in the hope of encouraging others to get regular eye examinations, which were key for detecting glaucoma early.
"There are hundreds of people walking around Christchurch today who have no idea that they have glaucoma and are going blind," he said.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in New Zealand, with an estimated 10 per cent of people over the age of 70 and 2 per cent of those over 40 having it. The disease affected about 64 million people worldwide.
* Glaucoma - the silent disease
Glaucoma New Zealand chairwoman Helen Danesh-Meyer said about half of those with glaucoma did not "know they have it".
The disease in incurable, but blindness is rare if it is diagnosed early, she said.
Dickerson had an eye test in 2016 after reading a Women's Weekly article at a hairdressing salon about former cricketer Sir Richard Hadlee and his wife Dianne – both Glaucoma New Zealand ambassadors – encouraging people to get their eyes tested regularly.
The 55-year-old was diagnosed with primary open angle glaucoma – a condition with no early symptoms that could have made him blind.
"This came as a shock to me as I had always had very good eyesight, no symptoms and no family history. Glaucoma was the last thing in the world I expected to be diagnosed with," he said.
Early treatment saved him from going blind and his prognosis was now excellent, he said.
Glaucoma New Zealand recommends people have an eye examination every five years after they turn 45, every three years from the age of 60, and at any time if changes in eyesight are noticed.
St George's Hospital ophthalmologist Dr Paul Baddeley said there was a "huge need" for glaucoma care in Canterbury with an ageing population.
St George's established a dedicated clinic in 2015 to answer increasing demand, he said.
Sir Richard Hadlee said eye checks were vital.
"Men can be blase and think 'she'll be right mate', but then one day things might not be right.
"There are no excuses. Make an eye appointment and put it in your diary."
July marks Glaucoma New Zealand's Annual Awareness Appeal. Donations can be made online at glaucoma.org.nz.