Glaucoma is a condition in which the pressure in the eye is too high for that eye. The relatively high pressure will cause damage to the optic nerve, which transmits impulses from the retina to the brain in response to light and if untreated leads to permanent loss of sight. It is usually detected by an Optometrist during a routine check up.
There are 4 types: chronic open angle glaucoma (by far the commonest), acute angle closure glaucoma (which is very painful, can cause rapid loss of vision and needs urgent treatment), secondary glaucoma and congenital glaucoma which are rare.
Chronic open angle glaucoma is one of the most common conditions. It is crucial that the condition is diagnosed and treated to prevent further irreversible damage to the eye. It is painless and without symptoms until at a very advanced stage and therefore it is important for you to have regular pressure checks with your optometrist.
Glaucoma often affects both eyes, usually to varying degrees. One eye may develop glaucoma quicker than the other.
The eye produces fluid called aqueous humour. which is drained from the eye via a meshwork. If excess fluid is produced or it can no longer drain from the eye and the (intraocular) pressure builds up, causing damage to the optic nerve, resulting in the field of vision becoming smaller and ultimately with the loss of sight.
Acute angle closure glaucoma is much less common but requires immediate treatment. The patient complains of severe pain, blurring of vision and haloes around lights. The pressure in the eye builds up very rapidly to a very high level and if untreated can cause blindness in the affected eye.
If there is suspicion that you have glaucoma the pressure in your eye and the thickness of the cornea is measured and the visual field mapped out.
Treatment consists of eye drops to reduce the pressure in the eye. It is usual to commence on one drop and add others if the pressure is too high. We will suggest a target pressure which we think will prevent the field of vision narrowing. Up to four types of eye drop can be used in combination to achieve this pressure.
The drops may contain two active compounds so you may only have to use one or two bottles. If eye drops fail to control the pressure sufficiently laser, known as selective laser trabeculoplasty, is used. This is painless and takes 5 minutes.
The last treatment option is surgery. It involves either making a flap in the wall of the eye or inserting a stent to allow fluid to drain out
Glaucoma has been referred to as the ‘sneak thief of sight’. Early diagnosis and treatment is important to prevent further irreversible loss of vision.
Glaucoma vision: series of four photos demonstrating typical progression of vision loss due to glaucoma.
Hear expert eye surgeon Paul Rosen discuss Glaucoma Treatment
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