What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases in which the optic nerve at the back of the eye is slowly destroyed. This results in loss of peripheral vision. If left untreated, it leads to tunnel vision and eventual blindness. The most common type of glaucoma is due to an increase in the pressure inside the eye (primary open angle glaucoma). This is usually due to either blockage of the circulation of fluid inside the eye, or a problem with its drainage.
With Glaucoma, there are usually no symptoms at all, and if we do notice it is often too late. There is often no pain experienced, and central vision is unaffected until the late stages of the disease. This is why this disease is often called the “invisible disease”. Sadly, people with glaucoma can remain unaware of the problem until it is too late – a large portion of their vision has already been destroyed and this damage is irreversible. For this reason, it is crucial to have regular eye health checks to ensure early detection of the disease.
Anyone can get this disease, however there are people with increased risk of developing this disease, such as those with;
- a family history of glaucoma
- high short sightedness (myopia)
- high long sightedness (hyperopia)
- some eye injuries
- high blood pressure
- use of cortisone drugs (steroids)
- African & Asian descent.
People in these high risk groups should have their first eye check no later than the age of 35 and every two years from then on unless advised by your eye care practitioner for more frequent assessments. New technology such as Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) can detect optic nerve damage far earlier than previous methods. If you are in a high risk group, regular OCT will ensure detection of the disease before there has been any loss of peripheral vision. For most people, it is recommended to have an eye check for glaucoma by the age of 40 with ongoing two yearly regular eye health checks.
Treatment is aimed at reducing the pressure inside the eye. This can include regular eye drops, laser and even surgery. Treatment cannot recover what has been lost, but it can arrest, or at least slow down the damage process. That is why it is vital to detect the problem as early as possible, so that treatment can commence before too much vision is lost. For further information visit Glaucoma Australia at www.glaucoma.org.au