What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve (the nerve at the back of the eye) which causes loss of peripheral vision. This can lead to tunnel vision and later complete blindness, if not treated early.

What causes glaucoma?

There are many causes and different types of glaucoma. The most common form is caused by raised pressure inside the eye. This may be genetic, but can also occur in people who do not have a family history of the disease. Glaucoma can also occur after an eye injury or inflammation in the eye.

Who should be screened for glaucoma?

Unfortunately, glaucoma can cause loss of vision over years before it is discovered. If discovered too late, the loss of vision cannot be reversed. However, if detected early, vision loss may be prevented completely. When you go for an eye test (at an optometrist) your eye pressure will be measured to screen for glaucoma.

If abnormalities are detected, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) where further tests will be performed to see if you require treatment. Persons over 40 years of age, or those who have someone in the family with glaucoma, should be screened for glaucoma as it is not possible to know if you have glaucoma before irreversible visual loss has occurred.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

In most cases of glaucoma there are no symptoms until it is too late to prevent permanent damage. In advanced cases, patients with glaucoma may experience a gradual narrowing of their peripheral vision (tunnel vision). If glaucoma is not adequately treated, it can lead to permanent blindness.

How can glaucoma be treated?

Glaucoma can be treated with specially developed eye drops. These drops, used in the eyes daily, lower the pressure in the eyes and can improve blood flow to the optic nerve.

If glaucoma is severe or pressure very high, there are various operations that can be performed to treat glaucoma. Various types of laser are often employed before surgery is considered. When surgery is considered, MIGS (micro-invasive glaucoma surgery) is usually offered.


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