Routine eye health check saved Sunrise star from going blind

David ‘Kochie’ Koch recently opened up about an eye health scare that almost cost him his eyesight.

The Sunrise star revealed that he was diagnosed with glaucoma three years ago during a routine eye health check with an optometrist – despite having no symptoms at the time.

Now, the new Glaucoma Australia ambassador is supporting the fight against eye disease by sharing his story just in time for Men’s Health Week (13-19 June 2022).

“My diagnosis of glaucoma came completely out of the blue and was a real wake-up call about the importance of eye checks. My eyesight has never really changed – I’ve had the same strength glasses for 40 years – so I assumed there was nothing wrong with my eyes. Little did I know I had glaucoma,” Kochie says.

Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases in which the optic nerve at the back of eye is slowly destroyed. It is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, and often nicknamed the ‘silent thief of sight’ because peripheral (side) vision loss occurs so gradually that it often goes unnoticed until it’s too late.

In a recent interview with The Daily Telegraph, the 66-year-old says that if the optometrist hadn’t picked up the disease, it would have kept getting worse.

“We do lots of reading on Sunrise, a fair but off autocue and I hadn’t noticed a difference over the years.

“If I hadn’t been treated for another year or two, it would have been really hard to stabilise it and it would have gone over the tipping point.”

Kochie’s glaucoma diagnosis required him to have each eye lasered twice to reduce the pressure in his eyes. He now has regular checks every nine months as part of his glaucoma management plan.

“What shocked me is that you can have eye disease without knowing it. That’s why it’s so important to take control of your eye health and get your eyes tested.

“My ophthalmologist said if we hadn’t found the glaucoma when we did, and the pressure hadn’t been reduced, my sight would have been irreparably damaged.”

Glaucoma Australia says that while glaucoma affects more than 300,000 Australians, it is estimated that 50 per cent of those living with the disease are undiagnosed. And while nine out of 10 Australians say that sight is their most valued sense, over eight million Australians are not having regular eye tests. What’s more, Australian men are less inclined to have an eye check than women.

Glaucoma Australia Marketing Manager Gillian Hopkins said the organisation is thrilled to welcome David Koch as an ambassador, as his story complements their key community awareness campaign, “Treat Your Eyes”, which encourages all Australians to book in for an eye check, whether or not they’re experiencing problems with their sight.

“David’s experience shows that glaucoma can easily go under the radar. We hope that sharing his story and sight-saving message to get tested will result in early intervention for many Australians,” says Gillian.

“David’s glaucoma, like that of many Australians, has a hereditary link. That’s why it’s important he shares his story with his children and siblings, so they too can be tested.”

To find out more about glaucoma, and to schedule in a routine eye health check, we encourage you to book an appointment with your local optometrist today.

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