Many New Brunswickers unaware they are living with an incurable eye disease

3/11/2015

It’s called the ‘silent thief’ for a reason: it’s usually painless and has no immediate symptoms. Nearly 6,000 New Brunswickers are currently living with some form of glaucoma – and yet, only half are aware that they have the disease.

Glaucoma involves damage to the optic nerve most often caused by high pressure inside the eye due to a build up of excess fluid. Given its lack of warning signs and its ability to progress quietly, and sometimes very quickly, many individuals do not realize they are living with the disease until it is too late.

That was the case for Carmella Powers who woke up one morning stripped of her vision at only 22 years old.

“I had experienced mild vision problems caused by Iritis for many years, however, because of my young age, my doctors and I hadn’t considered glaucoma as a potential risk – and I was never tested for the disease,” says Powers.

The devastating effects of the disease struck Powers very quickly.

“I just woke up one morning and my vision was gone,” she remembers.

Powers has had a series of operations that have partially restored her sight, but the disease has still left her legally blind.

The Moncton resident believes raising awareness of the often-symptomless eye disease is key to minimizing its effects – and urges all New Brunswickers to get their eyes checked.

“The tonometry test, which measures pressure inside the eye, only takes two seconds,” she says. “All New Brunswickers should immediately schedule their next eye exam, even if their vision doesn’t appear to be compromised.”

Although the causes of glaucoma are not yet known, researchers have identified a number of risk factors:

  • Elevated eye pressure: People with higher than average pressure within the eye have an elevated risk of developing glaucoma
  • Family history: Individuals with a family history of glaucoma are at a much higher risk for open-angle glaucoma
  • Age: It is common to develop glaucoma after age 40 and the risk increases for people over 60
  • Ethnicity: Open-angle glaucoma is more common among people of African, Asian or Inuit descent
  • Myopia: People who are nearsighted have an increased risk of developing glaucoma

Regular, comprehensive eye examinations are key to detecting glaucoma, which can lead to permanent vision loss or blindness. If detected and treated early, the incurable eye disease can be controlled through eye drops, laser therapy and other treatments.

To arrange media interviews with a local CNIB spokesperson and individual living with glaucoma, please contact:

Nicole Lawrence
Communications Specialist
902.453.1480, ext. 5721
nicole.lawrence@cnib.ca

Back to top of page