Imagine being suddenly plunged into the world of darkness while on a date, and you have no idea how it happened. It’s true that you started having a problem seeing clearly from the corner of your eyes a few years ago, but you thought nothing of it and put off that eye-test, assuming your glasses were good enough. To your horror, you find out that you had glaucoma which had gone undetected all these years. If only you had known earlier…
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, eventually causing blindness. It typically occurs when fluid builds up in the front part of your eye, which increases the pressure in your eye, injuring the nerve. The eye starts to constantly produce a fluid, known as aqueous, that must be drained to ensure optimal eye pressure.
Accounting for 5.2 million of the estimated 38 million blind worldwide, glaucoma is the leading cause of permanent blindness. This number continues to rise with the increasing number of the world’s elderly population. In Singapore, glaucoma affects approximately 3% of people over the age of 50 and nearly 10% of those over the age of 70.
The Silent Thief of Sight
Glaucoma has frequently been referred to as “the silent thief of sight” as there are no warning signs or initial symptoms. It gradually affects your peripheral vision, therefore the gradual progression of losing your sight may be overlooked.
Don’t be mistaken into thinking this condition only affect older people; from babies to seniors, everyone is at risk of glaucoma. However, some risk factors may increase your likelihood of developing it, including being over 60 years old, a family history of glaucoma, having a previous eye injury or diabetes. There is no known cure for glaucoma. Only a comprehensive eye exam can uncover changes that occur early in the optic nerve. Hence early detection and treatment is the safest bet you have against preventing or delaying vision loss.
The problem is though, not many people have heard of glaucoma, let alone the consequences of it. Up to 83.2% of those who suffer glaucoma and eye diseases are unaware and many go undiagnosed. This lack of awareness is a key contributing factor to the late detection of eye disease and consequent visual impairment. Moreover, traditional health education campaigns lack engagement and have struggled to capture the attention of the public. Who wants to attend a long lecture on glaucoma right?
Enter Team EYECU.
EYECU: A Free Augmented Reality (AR) Game to Raise Awareness
In an attempt to address the gap of undiagnosed glaucoma, EYECU’s recent game app launch heralded a novel spin on traditional healthcare education through a digital campaign. The game incorporates vision loss due to glaucoma in gameplay and is free to download from Apple and Android app stores.
Comprising of a team of undergraduates from the National University of Singapore (NUS) schools of Computing, Medicine, and Business, the EYECU initiative was started in 2018 to raise awareness among families about glaucoma and the importance of vision health. It aspires to help address preventable blindness by urging Singaporeans to go for regular eye screening.
EYECU was developed with partners and advisors from the National Youth Council (NYC), Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) Singapore, VISRE, PIXEL labs, and Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA). Following its launch, EYECU plans to collaborate with Rotary Singapore to extend the reach of this campaign to regional beneficiaries. Download the app and join them on their quest to educate the public about the importance of eye screening for early detection and intervention for glaucoma.
Also, check out our article on Eye Health Do’s and Don’ts for tips on how to take care of your eyes to avoid vision problems.
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Photo Credit: Pixabay and Team EyeCU