Glaucoma is a degenerative disease of the optic nerve that can result in tunnel vision or blindness. The optic nerve is made up of nerve fibres that transmit information from our eye to our brain, so if these nerves become damaged then visual information is prevented from reaching the brain.
Glaucoma can be associated with a build up of pressure in the eye. The eye is normally filled with clear fluid which is constantly being drained and replaced. High pressure of this gel results when excessive amounts of gel are produced or when something blocks the drainage of gel from the eye. In some forms of glaucoma the pressure of this gel can become extremely high, while in other forms the pressure may remain normal.
In some cases of glaucoma the cause is unknown and in some forms of glaucoma damage to the drainage network of the eye can cause the pressure to increase. You have a higher risk of getting glaucoma is it is in your family.
Glacuoma is called ‘the sneak thief of sight’ because, in its early stages, there are no symptoms. In rare cases the increased pressure in the eye will cause blurred vision, coloured haloes around lights or pain in the eye, but most people are unaware that they have the disease.
If left untreated glaucoma will cause damage to the optic nerve fibres that result in tunnel vision and eventually blindness. Once damage has occurred it cannot be reversed, although most of the time it is possible to prevent further damage.
To diagnose glaucoma your optometrist or ophthalmologist will look at your optic nerve at the back of the eye, measure the pressure of the gel inside your eye, look at the eye’s drainage network, ask about any family history of glaucoma, and measure your peripheral vision. All of these tests are simple and painless.
Eye drops are still the most common treatment of glaucoma, although laser surgery can be used today as well. In some patients surgery may be necessary if the drops and laser don’t stop the progression of the disease. However, in most cases glaucoma is detected early and treated successfully to prevent any deterioration in vision.
Nicky Carr is our full time optometrist and is also our practice owner.