People in Dumbarton and the Vale are being advised to have regular eye tests to detect the early signs of glaucoma, the third largest cause of blindness in the world.

A total of 930 people in the area are living with the condition which is often referred to as the "silent thief of sight" due to its gradual onset.

Glaucoma can affect anyone, however, research shows that men are 16 per cent more likely to lose their sight than women with the condition because they do not generally seek medical help as quickly as women.

As this is World Glaucoma Week, Specsavers in Dumbarton are highlighting the common risk factors associated with it.

Store director Robin Mitchell said raised eye pressure, change in vision, optic nerve damage, genes and age were all determining factors.

He added: "The condition often affects both eyes, usually to varying degrees, however, there are two types - chronic glaucoma which develops slowly and acute glaucoma which develops rapidly with a sudden, painful build-up of pressure in the eye.

"When you see your optometrist they will carry out an eye pressure test using a tonometer.

"This instrument is used to measure the pressure inside the eye and is useful in identifying people who might have or are at risk of developing glaucoma.

"With chronic glaucoma, the visual loss can initially be very subtle and occurs just beyond your central vision, progressing slowly inwards towards your central vision and outwards into the periphery.

"Most patients will not be aware of this visual loss due to the way the eyes visual fields overlap, compensating for one another.

Robin said acute glaucoma is often sudden and painful and may present with other symptoms, including blurred vision and haloes around lights.

He added: "When you have glaucoma, the build-up of eye pressure can cause damage to the optic nerve and nerve fibres from the retina.

"This can be assessed in a variety of ways during your examination, but the real detail of a customer’s eye health will come from a photograph taken with a retinal camera.

"Digital retinal photography (DRP) captures an image of your optic nerve which can be used as reference for future visits and to track any changes that may occur over time.’

Robin said other factors which could make people more at risk of developing glaucoma was family history of the disease. Those who have black–African heritage or who have higher levels of short sightedness are also more at risk.

Age also plays a big part, with two in every 100 people over 40 are affected by the condition.

Robin added: "The good news is glaucoma can generally be treated effectively if detected early and in most cases, a daily eye drop can be used for treatment."

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