WHAT IS GLAUCOMA? Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to the optic nerve, a structure that connects the eye with the brain. This damage to the optic nerve is typically slow and progressive in open angle glaucoma, however may be more rapid in other forms of glaucoma such as narrow angle glaucoma. Usually peripheral vision is the first to be effected by the damage to the optic nerve, and in advanced glaucoma, only small portions of central vision may remain. Effectively a person may develop 'tunnel vision' if glaucoma is not treated at an early stage. The damage that occurs to the optic nerve is most often as a result of raised pressure within the eye.
HOW IS GLAUCOMA DETECTED? Glaucoma is only detected by having regular eye examinations with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Normally, an eye examination specifically checking for glaucoma includes measuring the eye pressure, examining optic nerve health, assessing visual fields and viewing the anterior drainage of the eye. Examining the optic nerve head with digital photos and OCT scanning helps determine the presence of glaucoma and also allows for better monitoring of the progression of glaucoma if present.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT OF GLAUCOMA? Treatment involves using eye drops that are designed to lower the pressure within the eye. The medication works by slowing down fluid production within the eye, or else helping improve fluid outflow from the eye. Both mechanisms reduce the overall pressure within the eye and the medication is typically used on an ongoing basis. Sometimes the eye drops, may be supplemented with laser surgery if the drops alone are not effective in reducing eye pressures sufficiently.
ARE RISK FACTORS FOR GLAUCOMA? Common risk factors include increasing age, a family history, high eye pressure, diabetes, high shortsightedness, and high or low blood pressure.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I BE CHECKED FOR GLAUCOMA? In general, a comprehensive eye examination every 1-2 years will determine whether risk factors for glaucoma exist. The regularity of examinations increase as the number of individual risk factors increase. It is quite common for individuals to require screening for glaucoma every 6 months if the risks for developing glaucoma are moderate to high (for example a person over the age of 50 with high eye pressure, and a family history of glaucoma). If you are unsure as to whether you have been appropriately screened for glaucoma, then it is always safer to be examined one again.