Serious eye disease can affect anyone and everyone
GLAUCOMA is a serious eye disease in which the optic nerve fibres that join the eye to the brain are damaged, causing possible vision loss.
This is typically the result of increased pressure within the eye, but not always.
Raised pressure can damage parts of the eye and may cause blindness if not treated.
Glaucoma is the second-largest cause of blindness and there are two main types: open angle and closed angle.
Open angle glaucoma is twice as common as closed angle glaucoma, but its rate of blindness is lower.
The biggest risk factor for glaucoma is age, with the largest proportion of sufferers older than 40 years of age.
Another important factor is a close family history of glaucoma. The average incidence of 2% for those above 40 rises to 18% for those with a blood relative who has the disease.
Other risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, short-sightedness, eye injury and use of cortisone drugs.
There are also genetic and ethnic differences, with closed angle glaucoma five times more common in Asian people and open angle glaucoma four times more common in African populations, compared to Europeans.
Many times the symptoms are not noticeable until dam- age to the eye has already occurred. In other cases, people experience headaches or foggy circles around lights at night called “haloes”.
As damage progresses, the peripheral vision is lost first. This is not noticed until a large part of vision has been destroyed, leading to an effect known as “tunnel vision”.
The central vision is rarely lost completely.
Diagnosis consists of hav- ing regular eye examinations that include a pressure measurement (tonometry) and visual field assessment to enable early detection.
The pressure measurement may be distorted by the thickness of the cornea, which can be allowed for with a measurement called pachymetry.
Eye examinations should take place every two years for patients older than 40.
The damage caused by glau- coma is irreversible and treatment cannot recover what has already been lost.
Treatment consists of trying to prevent future damage, usually with drops to control the pressure by reducing the inflow or increasing the outflow of fluid inside the eye.
In advanced cases, laser surgery to increase the outflow drainage may be needed.
For more, visit Eyecare Plus at the Whitsunday Shopping Centre or phone 4946 6730.