Eye specialist Dr Robert Murray is urging all Borderers to have their sight tested annually, after a rise in advanced-stage glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a condition which can affect sight, usually due to build up of pressure within the eye.
The condition often affects both eyes, usually to varying degrees, and one eye may develop glaucoma quicker than the other.
Although all opticians carry out a check for glaucoma as part of any visit, Dr Murray, one of three consultant ophthalmologists at Borders General Hospital Eye Centre, says not enough people are having their eyes checked regularly.
“All opticians do routine glaucoma checks all the time. But you get one or two people who never go to an optician and they are at risk because they won’t know if they have got glaucoma,” Dr Murray told The Southern.
For various reasons, it is not practical for GPs to check with their patients if they are having their eyes tested regularly, says Dr Murray.
“So the other way to try and tackle the problem is by making the issue more public.
“You see, when you have 40 or 45-year-old eyes, most people start to have trouble reading. When they go the optician to get their eyes tested, they are automatically checked for signs of glaucoma. But there are those who never go to an optician; they just pop along to somewhere like Tesco and buy ready specs and read with them.
“The problem is the person selling those glasses in Tesco or wherever does not carry out checks for glaucoma.
“And then you have those who are naturally a bit short-sighted, say in one eye, and see well with the other eye and can read without glasses , and they don’t go for an eye test regularly either.
“Glaucoma can be missed and if it is missed it can be catastrophic. If someone does start to develop glaucoma, the progress of the condition is very slow and is painless.
“People don’t notice when their field of vision first starts to constrict and it is usually only when it reduces right down to tunnel vision that they realise there’s a problem.
“When it reaches a certain point, very suddenly the field of vision will constrict right down to nothing and by then it is to late to save that person’s eyesight.”
Treatment in the first instance for glaucoma is eye drops to bring down the pressure in the eyeball and if not successful or it is too late for drops, then surgery is an option.
Dr Murray added: “The important thing is to discover it early and it can be kept at bay for a lifetime with drops or surgery.
“More people are becoming aware of glaucoma, but because the condition is painless, people don’t know they have it; so by the time a lot of people do come forward to have things checked, they are in the advanced stages of glaucoma.
“As they say, at first you feel nothing and then you see nothing.”
Glaucoma does have an hereditary element, so if one or both parents had the condition, there is a likelihood their offspring may also develop it.
The Borders does not have a higher incidence of glaucoma than anywhere else in Scotland, but Dr Murray says more people can have their eyesight saved if they make a point of having regular eye tests.
“If it is picked up early by an optician because of slightly raised eye pressures, that person is referred to us here at the hospital. About one third of those referred will not have glaucoma, but about one third will have the full-blown condition.
“The good news is that anyone diagnosed with glaucoma can get the full range of available treatments right here at the BGH.”