Glaucoma is the name given to a group of diseases where the optic nerve at the back of the eye is damaged causing irreversible vision loss. This is most commonly caused by increased pressure inside the eye, although many people with Glaucoma do not have raised pressure.
High pressure occurs when there is an imbalance in the speed of the fluid pumped into the eye and the speed of the fluid flowing out of the eye. The aim of treatment is to reduce the pressure by decreasing the fluid production or increasing fluid drainage.
Glaucoma is common, affecting nearly 2% of the population over the age of 40. Most people have no eye symptoms when glaucoma is diagnosed. Symptoms only occur in the very late stages of advanced glaucoma.
Glaucoma can cause loss of peripheral (side) vision. Glaucoma cannot be self-detected, and many people affected by glaucoma may not be aware of any vision loss. Any loss of vision can be detected and monitored by examining peripheral vision which is done through visual field testing prior to seeing the Ophthalmologist.
The elevated pressure in the eye is detected as part of a routine examination by the Ophthalmologist or an Optometrist.
The health of the optic nerve is assessed by the Ophthalmologists and also using Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). OCT is a non-invasive imaging test that scans the optic nerve and the retina’s distinctive layers.
Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma can present with sudden severe pain in the eye often followed by a visual disturbance, nausea and vomiting. Urgent medical treatment in the form of laser treatment and medication is required to prevent irreversible visual loss.
Once the diagnosis of glaucoma is made, the eye pressure must be reduced (in high pressure situations) to prevent damage to the sight. Although glaucoma usually cannot be cured, in most cases it can be successfully controlled with the proper treatment.
Eye drops are the most common form of treatment. More than one type of drop may be needed to maintain a lower pressure. The control of the eye pressure needs to be monitored by an Ophthalmologist or an Optometrist as the effectiveness of treatment may reduce with time. Sometimes tablets are also used.
Laser and/or surgical procedures may reduce or eliminate the need for glaucoma eye drops. Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS) is offered by ESA Ophthalmologists, using devices such as the iStent Inject, Hydrus, XEN, and CyPass*.
*Not currently available.
For further information including treatment options, risks and complications of surgery click on the links below.
- Vision Australia 'What is Glaucoma?'
- Glaucoma Australia
- Glaucoma Research Foundation
- American Academy of Ophthalmology 'What is Glaucoma?'