Published on the 02 July 2019
Published on the 02 July 2019
Untreated, glaucoma can cause blindness.
The onset of glaucoma can be a gradual one. So much so, that a significant amount of side vision will be lost before the individual has even noticed they have a condition.
(Glaucoma Australia 2019; Vision Eye Institute 2019; Healthdirect 2017)
Glaucoma is the name given to a range of conditions that lead to optic nerve damage. This is the nerve that transmits signals from the eye to the brain to create the image we see.
If a considerable number of nerve fibres are affected, the peripheral field of vision is lost – this loss slowly creeps toward the central vision. Currently, glaucoma cannot be reversed.
People who have experienced glaucoma report feeling: frightened; confused; alarmed; and being in discomfort in the onset of the condition. (Glaucoma Australia 2019)
In the case of primary open-angle glaucoma, a patient loses their peripheral vision due to the optic nerve becoming damaged. Insufficient drainage of fluid from the eye is responsible for pressure and nerve damage.
This type of glaucoma typically does not cause pain and is therefore difficult to detect. As with other types of glaucoma, the early signs may be very subtle.
This is the most common type of glaucoma – it is responsible for around 90% of reported glaucoma cases in Australia. (Glaucoma Australia 2019)
Normal tension glaucoma is the term given to cases in which the patient has ‘normal’ eye pressure and therefore other reasons must be considered in determining changes in nerve pressure and visual field loss.
Normal tension glaucoma accounts for roughly one-third of glaucoma cases in Australia. (Glaucoma Australia 2019)
Chronic angle-closure glaucoma is a result of an inherited narrowness of the drainage angle of the eye. Aqueous fluid must drain through the angle between the trabecular meshwork and the iris and in this condition, it is unable to.
People with chronic angle-closure glaucoma may be prone to experiencing an acute attack.
Chronic angle-closure is more common in people who are long-sighted, older people, female and of Asian background. (Glaucoma Australia 2019)
When there is a very sudden increase in pressure within the eye as a result of the iris blocking the drain through which fluid leaves the eye, this is considered as acute angle-closure glaucoma. Immediate medical attention is required as this can lead to permanent sight-loss.
Symptoms may include pain, nausea, blurred vision and redness of the eye.
Acute angle-closure is also mostly experienced by people who are long-sighted, older people, female and of Asian background. (Glaucoma Australia 2019)
An abnormal drainage system is responsible for childhood glaucoma. It can be detected by noticing that children are particularly sensitive to light and have excessively cloudy and watery eyes.
Childhood glaucoma is rare and devastating when it does occur. Cases tend to range in their severity. (Glaucoma Australia 2019)
Those with a family history of glaucoma are at the greatest risk of developing this condition.
Other main predictors include:
Those in high-risk categories should have their eyes examined well before the age of 35. (Vision Australia 2019; Healthdirect 2017)
An estimated 300,000 Australians are currently living with glaucoma. Furthermore half of those people have not been diagnosed. It occurs in one in ten people over the age of 80.
Having a first-degree relative who has glaucoma increases the risk of developing glaucoma eight-fold. (Cera 2018)
If a doctor or optometrist suspects that a person may have glaucoma, they may be referred to an ophthalmologist for further investigation and analysis. A range of eye tests will then be taken in order to confirm the diagnosis. (Vision Eye Institute 2019)
Symptoms most often associated with glaucoma include:
Treatment is available that is designed to prevent or delay further damage, primarily by reducing the pressure in the eye.
Typically, this involves:
The most effective way to ensure glaucoma prevention is to have regular eye tests – early diagnosis and treatment is essential. (National Eye Institute 2015)
To gain a better understanding of glaucoma, Glaucoma Australia has curated a list of several stories from the perspectives of people living with the condition: https://www.glaucoma.org.au/about-glaucoma/glaucoma-stories/
(Correct answers below.)
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