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Understanding Glaucoma

What is it, what causes it and how to treat this eye condition

The word itself comes from the Latin and Greek word glaukōma based on glaukos which was thought in ancient times to be the colour of the pupil effected by glaucoma.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. It is a condition of increased pressure within the eyeball, causing gradual vision loss.

Understanding glaucoma and how we at Ian Donald Optometrist can help you treat it is particularly important for adults over 40.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that affect and damage the optic nerve, causing loss of vision, that typically start in patients over the age of 40

The word itself comes from the Latin and Greek word glaukōma based on glaukos which means bluish-green or grey, due to the colour of the pupil affected by glaucoma.

According to Glaucoma Australia, two in 100 Australians are affected by glaucoma, and 50% of those affected don’t know they have glaucoma. People are ten times more likely to develop glaucoma if a direct family member has it.

The scientific stuff

Aqueous humour is a clear water like liquid that is constantly secreted from the ciliary body of the eye to nourish and support the lens of the eyeball. This fluid then drains from an area known as the anterior chamber or drainage angle. When there is damage to this part of the eye, the rate at which the drainage occurs decreases, causing a build-up of aqueous humour.

The optic nerve – made up of about one million nerve fibres that connect the eye to the brain – lies at the back of the eye, and an increased build-up of pressure or intraocular pressure (IOP) on the eye damages the optic nerve, eventually causing partial or complete and irreversible vision loss.

Types of glaucoma

Open-angle or chronic glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. Vision loss is gradual and as no signs or symptoms present themselves, when this type of glaucoma is diagnosed, irreparable damage of the optic nerve has often already taken place.

Angle-closure or acute glaucoma is a condition where the eye becomes unexpectedly blocked, causing a quick build-up of fluid that increases pressure in the eye. The symptoms are severe pain, nausea and blurred vision, and this type of glaucoma requires immediate medical attention.

Congenital glaucoma presents in children who are born with a defect in the angle of the eye that either slows or prohibits normal fluid drainage. Symptoms include cloudy eyes, tearing or light sensitivity. As the name suggests, congenital glaucoma can run in families.

When a pre-existing eye condition or injury such as cataracts, eye tumours or corticosteroid type medications cause glaucoma as a side effect, it is referred to as secondary glaucoma.

Sometimes, people present with no increased pressure in the eye; however, acute sensitivity or lack of blood flow causes damage to the optic nerve. This type of glaucoma is known as normal tension glaucoma.

Treating glaucoma

As there is no cure for glaucoma and as the vision loss is irreversible, early detection through an eye examination using the latest optometry technology is key, so booking your annual visit with us is imperative.

Early onset glaucoma can be treated with prescription eye drops or, in some cases, laser surgery.

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