Glaucoma is caused by a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve or information cable that carries the information from your eyeball to your brain.
It is known as the ‘sneak thief of sight’ because in many cases it slowly steals away your vision, without causing any symptoms. Usually it damages your peripheral or outside vision first, before moving towards their central vision. The vision field loss is usually permanent or irreversible. Currently there is no eye drop, tablet or medication that can reverse the damage.
Although there is still a lot to understand about glaucoma, some of the risk factors for developing it include:
- Increasing age
- Raised intraocular pressure (IOP) – although 50% of people with glaucoma will have an IOP within what is considered to be the normal range
- Family history of glaucoma
- African, Asian or Eskimo heritage
- Past eye trauma
- High short or long sightedness
- Prolonged use of steroid medications – oral, inhalational, topical drops
- Other systemic health issues – diabetes, migraine headaches, high blood pressure and some types of circulatory disorders
Glaucoma can be difficult to detect in its very early stages. Unfortunately there is no one single examination finding or investigation that can definitively diagnose the disease and instead multiple pieces of information from your history, examination findings and investigations need to be put together, like doing a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes these need to be repeated numerous times over many years, before a diagnosis can be made.
The initial treatment is normally eye drops, which once started, are usually life-long. On occasion surgery may be required.
Newer forms of management, such as ‘micro-stents’ implanted at the time of cataract surgery, are showing promise.