Health & Wellbeing
Glaucoma has often been called the disease that strikes like a thief in the night. It’s unobtrusive and can sneak up on you, taking away your sight with no pain or symptoms.
Glaucoma is most commonly associated with an increased pressure in the eye, which over time slowly destroys the optic nerve. Other theories include poor blood supply to the optic nerve itself, or problems with the integrity of the nerve. Though less common, certain types of glaucoma can occur in those with low eye pressures. Though more common in the elderly, glaucoma can begin at any age. Because there are usually no symptoms associated with glaucoma, approximately half of those affected are unaware. The visual system is very adept at filling in gaps, so one eye often ‘covers up’ for the defects in the other, making it difficult to detect until very advanced stages.
It is estimated that over 68,000 New Zealanders have glaucoma. This number continues to increase as our population ages: it is now one of the leading causes of blindness in New Zealand.
Fortunately, glaucoma is treatable in the majority of cases when diagnosed early. More often than not, prescription eye drops are all that is required. Prevention is the key, and regular comprehensive vision examinations are recommended for all adults.