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What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases which the optic nerve at the back of the eye is slowly destroyed.

In most people this damage is due to an increased pressure inside the eye - a result of blockage of the circulation of aqueous, or it's drainage.
In other patients the damage may be caused by the blood supply to the vital optic nerve fibers, a weakness in the structure of the nerve, and/ or a problem in the health of the nerve fibers themselves.

Over 300,000 Australians have glaucoma. It is as common as diabetes. While it is more common as people age. it can occur at any age.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

One of the most common forms of glaucoma has no symptoms until the eye is lost at a later stage.
Damage progresses very slowly and destroys vision gradually, starting with the side vision. One eye covers for the other, and the person remains unaware of any problem until the majority of the nerve fibers have been destroyed, and a large part of vision has been destroyed.
- This damage is irreversible.
- It is progressive and usually relentless.
Treatment can not recover what has been lost. But it can arrest, or at least, slow down the damage process. Thats why it is so important to detect the problem as early as possible, to be able to start treatment with as little damage as possible.


Who is at risk?

Although anyone can get glaucoma, some people have a higher risk, those with:
a family history of glaucoma
short sightedness ( myopia)
eye injuries
blood pressure
past or present use of cortisone drugs (steroids)

People in these groups should have an annual eye examination.

How is glaucoma detected?

A regular eye examination is the best way to detect glaucoma early.
A glaucoma test usually includes the following:
optic nerve head check with an ophthalmoscope
eye pressure check
visual field assessment on indication

People in these groups should have an annual eye examination.
- this tests the sensitivity of the side vision, where glaucoma strikes first

Can glaucoma be treated?

Although the is no cure for glaucoma it can usually be controlled and further loss of sight either prevented or at least slowed down. Treatments include:
Eye Drops
These are the most common form of treatment and must be used regularly. In some cases pills are prescribed. The drops can be varied to best suit the patient and the type of glaucoma.
This is performed usually after eye drops do not stop deterioration in the field of vision. In many cases eye drops will need to be continued after laser. Laser does not require a hospital stay.
This is performed usually after eye drops and laser have failed to control the eye pressure. A new channel for the fluid to leave the eye is created.

Treatment can save remaining vision but it does not improve eye sight.


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