What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that affects the ganglion cells of the retina and optic nerve fibres, resulting in permanent vision loss.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Most types of glaucoma have no symptoms at first hence it is called the “sneak thief of sight”. These are the chronic types of glaucoma and are the most common. There is no pain and vision appears normal. However as the disease progresses, people with glaucoma will slowly lose peripheral (or side vision), resulting in tunnel vision. In the final stages of the disease the central vision will eventually be lost.

In the acute or angle closure type of glaucoma patients will experience noticeable symptoms such as blurred vision, severe eye pain, ache, halos around lights, nausea and vomiting. This form of the disease is rare but can rapidly result in blindness so it is important that patients with any of these symptoms contact an eye care practitioner quickly.

How is glaucoma diagnosed?

Eye care practitioners diagnose glaucoma by measuring the pressure inside the eye, examining the optic nerve at the back of the eye and by performing a visual field test. Special testing with OCT scanning of the retinal nerve fibres and the optic nerve head are also used.

How is glaucoma treated?

At present there is no cure for glaucoma. However the progression of glaucoma can be slowed down and further loss of your vision prevented.

Eye drops are the most common form of treatment. These must be used regularly to be effective. There are many different type of eye drops used in the management of glaucoma and your eye care practitioner will prescribe what is best for your eyes. In rare cases oral medication may also be prescribed.

When eye drops fail to stop the vision loss, laser treatment in the form of laser trabeculoplasty is used. Laser is performed in the consulting rooms and does not require a hospital stay.

When eye drops and laser treatment fail to control eye pressure, surgery known as a trabeculectomy can be performed. While this treatment will save remaining vision it does not improve sight.