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Large turnout at Glaucoma Australia’s B.I.G. Breakfast

14/03/2018By Lewis Williams PhD
Glaucoma Australia (GA)’s Beat Invisible Glaucoma (B.I.G.) Breakfast attracted a large and varied turnout on Monday, as the ophthalmic professions gathered to raise awareness for Glaucoma Awareness Week and discuss future plans for combating the sight-stealing disease.

New GA CEO Ms Annie Gibbins launched the event, this year held in Sydney Tower, which was attended by representatives of ophthalmology, optometry, orthoptics, pharmacy, the pharmaceutical and device industries, patients and their relatives and friends, and support staff from GA itself. Given the spectacular panoramic view of Sydney on offer, it was sobering to know that such a view can be denied later stage glaucoma sufferers.

Gibbins opened with restating GA’s mission – the elimination of glaucoma blindness – a challenging goal due to the fact 50% of glaucoma cases are unaware of their disease. This figure has not declined significantly over time, despite the best-laid plans of the many stakeholders to tackle the problem of widespread ignorance of the disease and its sequelae.

Gibbins’ approach is to focus on the positive, seek synergies, and dedicate efforts to making the extraordinary happen.

That figure of 50% of cases being unaware means there are approximately 150,000 Australians who are unknowingly living with the disease. All too often, becoming aware of their disease means that much irreversible damage has already occurred because of the symptomless nature of the early stages of the most common forms of glaucoma.

To pursue the issues further, Gibbins emphasised the need for blood relatives of glaucoma patients to be examined promptly, and to be monitored regularly for the rest of their lives, because their risk of the disease can be as high as 50%.

GA is also seeking co-operation from ophthalmologists, optometrists, pharmacists, and GPs to register all their glaucoma cases with GA in order to assist patients with their care and compliance with prescribed treatments. Registered patients will be supplied with free educational and support materials, both printed and electronic, that are to be tailored to their particular needs, while an orthoptist is being employed to fill a patient-educator role.

GA is also lobbying the government to get Medicare benefits for eye examinations every two years (presently three years) from the age of 40 for those with a family history of glaucoma.

Supporters

Gibbins then introduced TV host and Fox Sports broadcaster Mr Andrew Voss, who has agreed to become an ambassador for the GA B.I.G. campaign. Voss is connected to the cause via his mother who, along with her identical twin sister, has been diagnosed with glaucoma.

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Other overseas family members have also revealed, belatedly, that they too have glaucoma, unaware initially that it is prudent to warn all family members of the possibility. Voss and his three sons are now on a monitoring program hoping to catch any hint of the disease early.

Ms Sarah Martin, CEO of Vision X-Ray Group also addressed the gathering because she too has a family history of glaucoma and, despite her young age, is already recording progressively elevated IOPs on examination. The full range of modern instrumentation is applied at regular intervals to monitor if and when she might shift from being an ocular hypertensive to having a true optic neuropathy.

Funding

Because funding is a key issue with organisations like GA, a sponsorship prospectus was available at the breakfast because the more ambitious plans GA wants to prosecute over the next few years will require additional resources. Cost effective social media campaigns are also planned and, given the family history connection, they might prove to be one of the most effective.

GALLERY


Andrew Voss, Glaucoma Australia ambassador
Andrew Voss, Glaucoma Australia ambassador
Annie Gibbins, Glaucoma Australia CEO
Annie Gibbins, Glaucoma Australia CEO
Sarah Martin, CEO of Vision X-ray Group
Sarah Martin, CEO of Vision X-ray Group

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