Glaucoma is a common eye condition which leads to blindness if left untreated. Many people are unaware they have glaucoma as it causes no symptoms in the early stages.
Glaucoma is usually a chronic disease which develops over some years and causes damage to the optic nerve (sight nerve) at the back of the eye. This results in a painless but permanent loss of vision, starting with peripheral or side vision.
Glaucoma is usually due to a build-up of pressure within the eye, although sometimes the pressure is not raised. The eye pressure can be measured by applying a simple instrument (a tonometer) to the surface of the eye. The doctor or optometrist also checks the inside of your eye for damage to the optic nerve. In addition, a visual field test (perimetry) can be performed to detect any loss of side vision.
Who is at risk?
The risk of glaucoma increases with age. Having a close relative with the disease also raises your risk 4-fold. Glaucoma is also more common in people with diabetes, high blood pressure, migraine, short-sightedness and users of steroid (cortisone) medication.
Glaucoma Australia recommends regular eye tests from the age of 40 or from 35 for those in the at-risk groups.
How is glaucoma treated?
Glaucoma cannot be cured, but can usually be controlled with treatment. Most people are treated with eye drops. Sometimes laser treatment and surgery are used. However, sight that has been lost before treatment cannot be brought back, so early detection and treatment are vital.
For more information, ask your GP, ring Glaucoma Australia on 1800 500 880 or visit http://www.glaucoma.org.au/.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.