Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve, typically as a result of a build up of pressure inside the eye. It causes irreversible loss of peripheral (side) vision. There are various forms of glaucoma with different causes.
It is sometimes called 'the silent thief of sight' because glaucoma in the early stages can have no symptoms. As it affects peripheral vision first, the disease may not be noticeable until the more severe stages when the blind spots become larger and more central. Vision loss that has already occurred is permanent.
Glaucoma is more common with age and runs in families. A more acute and aggressive form involving very high eye pressures is linked to people of Asian descent. Glaucoma in some cases can also occur in people with relatively normal eye pressures, making the diagnosis and treatment more difficult.
Genetic factors increase glaucoma risk by 4-9 times, so if you have family members with glaucoma you should have your eye pressures and peripheral vision tested regularly. Other known risk factors include high myopia (short-sightedness), high hyperopia (long-sightedness), diabetes, history of eye injury, steroid medication use, migraines, low blood pressure during sleep, hypertension and poor circulation.
At Eyecare Concepts we take glaucoma testing seriously. We check for glaucoma on all patients routinely and have several methods checking your eye pressures: a non-contact 'air puff' tonometer, a high-tech iCare tonometer requiring no numbing drops (great for kids), and a traditional applanation tonometer for high accuracy. We also take images of the back of your eyes at every visit to monitor for changes in your optic nerves over time, and we can test your peripheral vision with our computerised visual field analyser.
If glaucoma is suspected we will refer you to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) for further assessment. Glaucoma is most commonly treated with eye drops to lower the eye pressures, and sometimes with laser and surgical methods. Treatment is aimed at stopping the progression of the disease and preserving sight. Our optometrists can co-manage your glaucoma with your ophthalmologist.