Glaucoma A Personal Connection

July is Glaucoma Awareness month and we are promoting the importance of having your eyes checked. We want to raise awareness because glaucoma is a disease with no symptoms. Called the ‘silent thief of sight’, it is estimated more than 50% of people with glaucoma do  not realise it. 

As optometrists we are looking into people’s eyes every day, searching for early signs of glaucoma.  Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in New Zealand, which is why we always support  Glaucoma New Zealand’s work to raise awareness.  

This message resonates with us as we have family connections with this disease.  Claire’s grandmother went blind with glaucoma. She says “ In the 1970's the importance of having your eyes checked was not understood. When my Gran was diagnosed with glaucoma it was so advanced nothing could save her sight. She was a passionate reader which made this loss  very hard."  

Having  family members with glaucoma increases the risk of developing the condition. This is close to home for us, both having parents with glaucoma. Sally says “Families need to talk about eye health. July’s Glaucoma New Zealand Awareness and Appeal month will encourage this.” The importance of early detection is that glaucoma can be treated. This means someone with glaucoma will have their eyesight to read and drive, for many years. 

To support Glaucoma New Zealand’s annual Appeal month we will be donating $2 from every eye examination in July. We especially look forward to seeing people 45 years and older who have never had their eyes checked.

Kiwi Designed Technology to End Preventable Blindness

Recently I had a chance to try some innovative new lens technology. Using a simple device I was able to convert an IPhone into a specialized tool to examine eyes. 

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With a small group of optometrists I met Hanna Eastvold-Edwins from ODocs Eye Care. ODocs was started by Dr Hong Sheng Chiong. Hong is an ophthalmologist with a passion for technology and gadgets.

Several clinical attachments in third world countries (Kenya, Nepal and Malaysia) were key for Hong. These experiences have given him the insight to the burden of preventable blindness. He believes the problem lies in the access to quality eye care and he is part of the solution, designing his own equipment.

His company, ODocs, develops ultra mobile and economical eye tests and diagnostic devices. He has invented several eye imaging adapters for a mobile phone to diagnose and track eye diseases. He shared his inspiring story at TEDx Auckland. Watch him tell his story here.

The accolades for Hong continue. He was recently Highly Commended at the NZ Innovators 2016 awards in February.

What did I think? The results are impressive. Compared with the optics of our microscopes and specialized lenses? The views using a phone with the attachments were good. I expect these devices will find their way into optometrists rooms as well as out 'in the field' they are designed for.