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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2007, 00:16 GMT
Thousands ignore glaucoma advice
By Geoff Adams-Spink
Age & disability correspondent, BBC News website

Photo of an eye examination
Medication is vital after glaucoma is diagnosed
People with glaucoma who fail to use prescribed medication regularly are losing their sight unnecessarily, according to a leading charity.

The Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) is launching a campaign to encourage people to follow medical advice.

The condition has no symptoms in the early stages but requires patients to use eye drops for life.

The RNIB says that a third of those diagnosed stop taking their drops.

"Nobody in the UK should be losing their sight to glaucoma any more, " said RNIB campaigns manager Barbara McLaughlan.

"Sadly, people continue to do so and often it's because patients have no symptoms and so simply stop taking their drops."

The RNIB's report - Don't Blame the Patient! - has identified three main reasons why people lose their sight because of glaucoma:

  • Problems with following a prescribed treatment regime
  • Stopping treatment altogether
  • A failure to detect glaucoma early

One of the best known types of glaucoma, common glaucoma, has no symptoms in the early stages but once damage is done it cannot be repaired.

The RNIB is urging people in high risk groups to have regular eye tests to pick up the onset of the condition and, if it is diagnosed, to adhere to medical advice.

People of African and African-Caribbean origin are four times more likely to develop glaucoma than the rest of the population.

People over 40 whose relatives already have the condition, as well as diabetics, are also considered to be among those at higher risk.

The RNIB says that children under 16 and adults over 60 should have an annual eye test and the rest of the population should have one every two years unless they have been advised otherwise.

The organisation wants the government to fund a pilot project that would come up with a successful strategy for tackling glaucoma.

It also wants eye care professionals, pharmaceutical companies and patients' groups to form an alliance to improve glaucoma detection.

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