Glaucoma is a painless but progressive eye disease that can lead to permanent vision loss if not detected and treated early. The good news is that with good quality eyecare and early detection, treatment is very effective.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. Over 300,000 Australians have some form of glaucoma and it is believed that one in 10 Australians over 80 will develop glaucoma, as the risk increases with age.
In glaucoma, irreversible damage occurs to the optic nerve at the back of the eye. This is the nerve pathway that connects our eyes to our brain and enables us to “see”. More often, this damage develops gradually over a number of years, and sadly some cases are only detected after peripheral vision has been permanently lost.
Traditionally glaucoma was thought to be caused simply by high pressures within the eye, but nowadays it’s known that high intraocular pressure is only one risk factor for glaucoma.
The sneak thief of sight
Glaucoma cannot be self-detected. It’s usually completely painless and in the early stages has no effect on the way you see. This is the reason that glaucoma is known as the “sneak thief of sight”, and unfortunately once the nerve is damaged, it can’t be repaired. Early detection is vital to prevent irreversible vision loss and blindness so it’s all about prevention rather than the cure. This is a major reason patients with early warning signs that there might be a risk of nerve damage, or with a family history, are advised to have regular routine checkups. Regular eye examinations with our optometrists can detect early glaucoma.
To listen to Wes explain more about Glaucoma, watch this video:
A glaucoma review with Custom Eyecare involves:
- Notes taken on family members, called family history (as glaucoma is strongly genetic, so a family history is a risk factor)
- Notes taken on your general health (as diabetes, blood pressure, migraines, poor circulation, and some medications are risk factors for glaucoma)
- Your eye pressure measured, called IOP (as high eye pressure increases the risk)
- Your optic nerves photographed, called retinal photos (so we can look for anatomical changes and monitor for differences over time)
- Your corneal thickness measured, called pachymetry (as thin corneas are a risk, and thick corneas over-estimate your eye pressure)
- Your vision prescription tested, called refraction (as short sightedness and long sightedness can both be risks for different types of glaucoma)
- Your peripheral vision tested, called a visual field test (as early nerve fibre loss in the optic nerve causes losses in your peripheral vision)
- Your optic nerve scanned, called OCT (as it measures the actual nerve fibre layer thickness and can detect areas of nerve fibre loss)
Monitoring for Glaucoma
Assessment for glaucoma isn’t something you only need to have done once in your lifetime as the risk of developing glaucoma actually increases with age. Once we have done a careful examination of the optic nerve and eye pressure we will use that to monitor your eyes for changes over time.
Often, a patient may have a few suspicious signs of glaucoma in the eyes, but without any evidence that glaucoma is actually present right now. In this case the patient becomes a “glaucoma suspect” and is monitored closely over time – perhaps every six months. With repeated testing and comparison to past results, small changes over time can be detected.
Co-management of Glaucoma
As therapeutically qualified optometrists at Custom Eyecare, we are able to detect and diagnose glaucoma. We regularly co-manage glaucoma patients with ophthalmologists and are able to write prescriptions for glaucoma medications (eye drops) such as Xalatan, Lumigan, Combigan, and many others.
Contact us to arrange your comprehensive eye & vision check including glaucoma assessment.
Our optometrists are supporters of Glaucoma Australia and are listed glaucoma practitioners. For further information on Glaucoma, including a great video simulating how glaucoma can affect your vision, go to the Glaucoma Australia website. If you have a family history of glaucoma, or would simply like to be checked by experts, contact us for an eyecare appointment at our practice in Darby Street, Newcastle.