Starting treatment as early as possible is critical

GLAUCOMA

G

laucoma is commonly known as the ‘sneak thief of sight’ because it can cause irreversible vision loss without any obvious symptoms. Up to 50% of all people with glaucoma are not even aware they have the condition. However, if it is diagnosed early, treatment can begin and vision loss can be prevented.

The term glaucoma actually refers to a group of conditions that lead to eye (optic) nerve damage. This nerve transmits signals from the eye to the brain to produce the image that we see. When a significant number of nerve fibres are damaged, your side (peripheral) field of vision is lost – this vision loss gradually extends towards your central vision, until eventually all sight is lost. Vision loss caused by glaucoma is permanent.

Damage to Eye

Most cases of glaucoma are due to an increased pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure), either from the drainage angle being closed (angle-closure glaucoma) or the drainage angle being open but damaged (open-angle glaucoma). A specific part of the eye called the trabecular meshwork provides natural resistance to the drainage of fluid from the eye. It is a failure of this meshwork that often causes raised eye pressure and, in turn, glaucoma nerve damage.

Glaucoma nerve damage can also occur with normal eye pressure. This is known as normal-tension glaucoma and is thought to be related to poor blood supply to the eye nerve.

Why did you get it?

Anyone can get glaucoma, but some people may be at higher risk than others.

  • A family history of glaucoma
  • People over 40 Years
  • People who get migraines
  • People who have Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Increased eye pressure
  • Being very short- or long-sighted
  • Previous eye injury
  • Current or previous use of steroids
  • Side-effect from Treatments
  • Central thinning of the cornea.

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Diagnosing glaucoma

If your GP or optometrist suspects that you have glaucoma, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist for further investigation. A number of tests will be carried out to confirm the diagnosis, including:

  • Visual acuity (clarity) test using an eye chart
  • Visual field test to determine peripheral vision
  • An examination that involves using drops to dilate the pupils of the eye
  • Tonometry to measure eye pressure
  • Pachymetry to measure corneal thickness
  • Gonioscopy to see if there is a blockage where the fluid normally drains out of the eye, and to distinguish between open-angle and closed-angle glaucoma
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT) to scan the optic nerve head to aid diagnosis and monitoring

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MANAGING GLAUCOMA

Patients with glaucoma require ongoing care by an ophthalmologist.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for glaucoma. But there are a number of treatment options available to help reduce eye pressure and minimise or prevent further vision loss. Sometimes a combination of treatments may be used.

Starting treatment as early as possible is critical for preserving as much of your remaining eyesight as possible, but vision that has already been lost cannot be recovered. Make sure you have regular eye checks with an optometrist, even if you don’t require glasses to see, as they will routinely check your eye pressure. This is particularly important for people who are at high risk of developing glaucoma.

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