09:13am Sunday 31 May 2020

QUT glaucoma research clears the way for sufferers

This week’s Glaucoma Week seeks to remind people to have regular eye examinations to help prevent loss of sight from this insidious disease.

Glaucoma causes gradual irreversible damage to the optic nerve and is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, says QUT Professor Joanne Wood from the QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) who leads research focussed on maintaining the independence and well-being of older adults with glaucoma.

“Because glaucoma is gradual most people don’t know they have it until it is picked up at an eye examination, by which time the person has most probably already lost some vision,” said Professor Wood who is the domain leader of the Vision Improvement Research Program at IHBI.

“Glaucoma often starts in the peripheral or side vision area and because of its gradual onset can go unnoticed and people carry on with their normal activities unaware they are losing visual capacity.

“We have a research team investigating how glaucoma contributes to falls in older sufferers and another looking at how glaucoma affects drivers.

“When our researchers followed 70 older adults with glaucoma for a year they found 40 per cent had at least one fall and 20 per cent several falls.

“An analysis of vision loss patterns showed that people who had vision loss in their lower peripheral vision had the strongest risk for falls.”

Professor Wood said ongoing research on driving safety among older adults with glaucoma at QUT was aimed at providing guidelines for licensing of drivers with glaucoma and was also examining potential interventions to assist safe driving in people with glaucoma.

“Driving is a highly complex visual task and people with glaucoma often report problems with glare and night driving. It’s also cited as one of the main reasons older drivers give up driving,” she said.

Professor Wood said everyone should have their eyes examined at least every two years.

“Although glaucoma can’t be reversed, its progress can be slowed or sometimes stopped with treatment.”

QUT Optometry Clinic is part of QUT Health Clinics’ state-of-the-art clinical education facilities open to the public. They include a specialised Vision Rehabilitation Centre that provides comprehensive service to visually impaired people including occupational therapy and social work.

It provides complete eye examinations including advanced technology for detecting eye diseases, and a dispensing service for patients providing spectacles, contact lenses, prescription sunglasses and other optical aids.

For more information contact the QUT Health Clinics on 3138 9777 or visit www.healthclinics.qut.edu.au.

Media contact: Niki Widdowson, QUT media, 07 3138 2999 or [email protected]

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