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Glaucoma

  • What is Glaucoma?

    Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve. The optic nerve sends signals from the eye to the brain. The nerve is usually damaged by the high pressure of fluid within your eye, although other things can also damage the nerve. Once damaged, the nerve cannot recover, so Glaucoma can lead to poor sight or blindness.

    Glaucoma may be acute or chronic. Acute Glaucoma occurs when the pressure in the eye rises quickly to very high levels. You may have sudden severe eye pain with blurred vision and headache on that side. Chronic Glaucoma is slow to develop and does not cause any symptoms in the beginning. As the nerve becomes more damaged, your vision is affected until only ‘tunnel vision’ is left. Some people may become blind.

    The different types of Glaucoma are:

    • Closed Angle Glaucoma — Happens slowly or suddenly, and can be painful
    • Glaucoma Suspect — Happens when there is a weak optic nerve, but no loss of vision
    • Low Pressure Glaucoma — Happens slowly when the optic nerve is weak
    • Open Angle Glaucoma — Happens slowly and is the most common form
    • Other Types — May be secondary to other eye conditions or some drugs (steroids
  • Although Glaucoma doesn’t have an obvious cause, it is more common in older people. The high pressure that causes Glaucoma happens because more fluid is produced in the eye than it can be drained away. This may be because the front part of the eye (called the anterior chamber) is narrow, and may become narrower as you age.

    Some of the causes of Glaucoma are:

    • Closed Angle Glaucoma — The eye’s drainage system physically closes up leading to high pressure; this can happen suddenly (acute) or slowly (chronic)
    • Low Pressure Glaucoma — The optic nerve is weak and becomes damaged even with normal pressure
    • Open Angle Glaucoma — The eye’s drainage system slowly becomes defective, leading to high pressure
    • Secondary Glaucoma — Other eye conditions or certain drugs cause the pressure to rise
  • Acute Glaucoma causes severe, sudden eye redness, pain and blurred vision. You should see your doctor if you have these symptoms. More commonly, chronic Glaucoma causes slow painless reduction of vision.

    As most people have the chronic form, they often don’t know that they have Glaucoma until it is quite advanced. By the time they have visual problems, the optic nerve has already been damaged. Regular eye check-ups are important for older people and those with relatives with Glaucoma.

  • Glaucoma cannot be cured, but it can be successfully controlled. The aim of treatment is to prevent further damage to your optic nerve and to preserve your remaining vision. Treatment depends on the type and severity of Glaucoma, and includes medication (eye drops), laser therapy or surgery:

    • Eye drops are given to lower the pressure in the eye
    • Eye surgery is only done when other methods have failed to limit damage to your optic nerve
    • Laser is used to treat certain types of Glaucoma, and to prevent acute Glaucoma in some patients

    Your doctor will determine the most appropriate treatment for you.

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