Glaucoma is when gradual damage occurs to the optic nerve. It can eventually cause damage to peripheral or side vision.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a common eye disease that can affect peripheral or side vision.
Early detection and treatment of glaucoma can help to prevent further damage to the optic nerve and reduce the risk of vision loss.
The front part of the eye produces a fluid called the aqueous humour, and the control between the production and drainage out of the eye maintains a normal pressure within the eye. In glaucoma, the eye pressure is often (although not always) raised.
The optic nerve transmits information from the retina to the brain. Glaucoma is when the nerve tissue, made up of more than 1 million nerve fibres, gradually becomes damaged.
If it is not treated the nerve fibres continue to become damaged which can eventually lead to blindness. Sometimes the peripheral vision damage is not noticeable until very advanced damaged has occurred; this is why glaucoma is sometimes called “the thief of sight”.
Treatment for glaucoma
There are many types of glaucoma. Glaucoma cannot be cured, but if glaucoma is detected early, treatment to lower the eye pressure can prevent progression and reduce the risk of vision loss. Treatment options include eye drops and medicines, laser treatment or surgery.
Monitoring for glaucoma
Your optometrist will look for early signs of glaucoma and recommend glaucoma-specific tests if the optic nerve appearance is unusual, if the eye pressure is abnormally raised or you have any risk factors.
Everyone over 40 should have regular checks for glaucoma at least every five years, and much more frequently if a family member has glaucoma or if there are other risk factors. It is important to maintain regular follow-up checks as changes can be very slow and are more likely to occur as you age.
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) technology has greatly improved the ability to detect glaucoma earlier. These scans are non-invasive and allow us to take exact and repeatable measurements of the nerve fibre tissue to monitor for changes to ensure earlier detection of glaucoma.
For more information: glaucoma.org.nz