According to the World Health Organisation, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, and the leading cause of irreversible blindness.



What Is Glaucoma?


Glaucoma is an eye disease affecting the optic nerve – this connects the eye to the brain.


It usually occurs when the pressure in your eye increases. This can happen when eye fluid doesn’t circulate normally in the front part of the eye. If the drain at the back of the eye is blocked, fluid builds up and

causes increased pressure, causing glaucoma.


The exact cause of this blockage is unknown, but doctors do know that it can be inherited, meaning it is passed from parents to children.


When the fluid pressure in the eye is too high, damage occurs to the sensitive optic nerve. Without treatment, the high eye pressure associated with glaucoma can cause total permanent blindness within a few years.


Secondary glaucoma can develop as a result of other conditions, such as eye injuries, infection, cataracts, diabetes and inflammation of the eye, or the use of certain medications (particularly those containing steroids).



Who Can Get Glaucoma?


Around 3% of Australian adults probably have glaucoma, but only half of these people actually know they have it.


Anyone can develop glaucoma, but some people have a higher risk. You are at risk if you:


  • Have a family history of glaucoma – in fact immediate family members of those with glaucoma have a ten times higher risk of developing glaucoma themselves


  • Are aged 40 years or over


•Are short-sighted •Have diabetes

  • Have had a serious eye injury


  • Have used steroid treatment over an extended period


•Have hypertension.



What Are The Symptoms Of




The most common type of glaucoma – open-angle glaucoma – develops gradually over time. For most people, the symptoms are mild or even absent in the early stages, so it usually goes undetected. The first sign of glaucoma is often the loss of peripheral or side vision, which can go unnoticed until late in the disease.


Occasionally, intraocular pressure can rise to severe levels. In these cases, sudden eye pain, headache, tunnel vision, blurred vision, sudden vision loss, or the appearance of halos around lights are symptoms that require immediate medical care.



If There Are No Symptoms, How


Will I Know If I Have It?


Diagnosing glaucoma


Glaucoma is a disease that is difficult to diagnose, as there is no single test that confirms the diagnosis. Usually the first noticeable sign is when an individual



experiences loss of peripheral vision – but by this stage up to 70% of neurons have already been irreversibly damaged. Thus, glaucoma is known as "the sneak thief of vision".


Early detection of glaucoma is vital to protect your sight. And with no symptoms or pain from the increased pressure, it is important to see your eye doctor (either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist) regularly.


Glaucoma is detected through a comprehensive eye exam that includes the following:


  • Visual acuity test – an eye chart test is used to measure how well you see at various distances.


  • Visual field test – the perimetry test is used to check the sensitivity of your peripheral (side) vision, where glaucoma strikes first.


  • Eye exam – using an ophthalmoscope (a special magnifying lens), your eye doctor examines your retina and optic nerve for signs of damage. If dilating eye drops are used to widen the pupils, your vision may be blurry for several hours after the exam.


  • Tonometry is the measurement of pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure).


  • Measurement of the angle where the iris meets the cornea



Can Glaucoma Be Cured?


Unfortunately, no… there is no cure for glaucoma. Instead, glaucoma is treated by reducing the pressure in the eye – with medicated eye drops, laser treatment or surgery. The treatment can slow or stop further visual losses, but it cannot restore vision that is already lost.


So Remember:


Detecting glaucoma early is one very good reason you should have a complete exam with an eye specialist every one to two years – especially if you are over age 40 or have a family history of glaucoma. Save your sight from “the sneak thief of vision”!!


DISCLAIMER: This material contains general information about medical conditions and treatments and is intended for educational purposes only. It does not constitute medical or professional advice, nor should it be used for the purposes of diagnosing or treating any illness. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your local pharmacist or health care provider to obtain professional advice relevant to your specific circumstances.