This sight threatening condition is known as the “thief of sight”.
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases which affect the pressure in the eye. As the pressure of the fluid in the eye increases, it pushes on the delicate nerves at the back of the eye, which enable us to see.
Glaucoma causes damage to the Optic Nerve at the back of the eye. It causes the nerve fibres which carry the information about what we see, back to the brain along the optic nerve, to die off. The nerve fibres for the peripheral vision will die off first, which is why we don’t know when we have Glaucoma as we do not notice that our peripheral vision has been affected by the disease until it is too late.
Once this damage occurs to the nerve fibres at the back of the eye, it cannot be reversed, because those nerve fibres are dead. This is why it is really important to detect Glaucoma before any significant damage has been done by the disease.
There are different types of Glaucoma, so your symtpoms will vary according to which type of Glaucoma you may have. Unfortunately, the most common form of Glaucoma does not cause any obvious symptoms, but naturally, if you feel that your eyes are bothering you, you should attend your optometrist as soon as possible.
Know your risks
• Age: risk of glaucoma increaes with every decade of life after the age of 40
• Family history
• Ethnic group; Afro-Carribean at highest risk
• Elevated Eye pressures
• Use of steroids
• History of eye injuries
• People who are very short or long sighted
• Diabetes or High Blood pressure
• Glaucoma can be treated by an ophthalmologist using laser surgery, eye drops or a combination of both. Treatment cannot undo damage that has been done by the disease, but it can prevent the progression of the disease. This is why early detection and intervention is vitally important.
Your optometrist will test the pressure in your eyes using either a puff of air test, or by gently touching your eye with a special instrument to test the pressure; this will require drops and is the most accurate method of detecting pressure in the eye.
Your optometrist will look at your Optic Disc to see if there are any signs of damage to the nerve fibres there.
Your optometrist may also want to check your visual field using a special instrument to check the health of your visual field.