What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the optic nerve at the back of the eye becomes damaged and slowly dies over time. In the early stages there are usually no symptoms (although eye pain can be experienced in certain types of glaucoma).
It is estimated that 300,000 people in Australia currently have glaucoma. 150,000 of these people do not know that they have it.
Glaucoma is often, but not always, related to increased pressure of the fluid inside the eye. Checking the pressure of the eye is one important test we do to check for glaucoma but this measurement alone is not enough to diagnose and monitor the disease. The heath of the optic nerve at the back of the eye also needs to be assessed. Further tests used in diagnosing and monitoring glaucoma include visual field testing, retinal photography, measurement of corneal thickness, and optic nerve scanning (Optical Coherence Tomography – OCT).
Glaucoma leads to loss in peripheral (side) vision, which eventually can become tunnel vision. It can lead to total blindness if left untreated. Although glaucoma usually progresses slowly it is important that it is detected early as once vision is lost it cannot be restored. Glaucoma is most commonly treated with eye drops to lower the pressure in the eye. It is also sometimes treated surgically. If we suspect that you are developing glaucoma we will refer you to a specialist (ophthalmologist) for further assessment.