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Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world today. It is estimated that over 300,000 Australian have the disease, many of whom are unaware.
Glaucoma is progressive damage to the optic nerve, the nerve which takes light signals from the eye to the brain. The damage comes about from a combination of factors, resulting in a mismatch between the pressure in the eye and the stength of optic nerve over time.
Glaucoma can cause gradual vision loss, but if detected early enough and treated well enough, the process can be arrested.
Investigation for glaucoma starts with a simple eye test, painless measuring of eye pressure, and careful examination of the eye. If there is concern, investigations are undertaken such as Nerve Scans, Visual Field Testing, and Water Drinking Tests.
If a diagnosis is made, treatment is started, and then monitoring occurs over time. This is a lifelong disease.
Treatment consists of drops, laser and occasionally surgery.
Drops are usually instilled on a daily basis and continue for life.
Laser is performed to either open the drainage angle of the eye, or to stimulate the drains to work more effectively. The advantage of laser is generally no or less drop treatment.
Surgery is reserved for the most severe cases where drops and laser are not controlling the disease.
Treated well, Glaucoma can have only minimal impact on ones life, but untreated or treated poorly, it can result in severe visual dysfunction.
The best thing you can do is get an eye test every two years, especially once above 40 years of age.