Glaucoma involves damage to the optic nerve, connecting the eye to the brain, usually because of high pressure in the eye. It is usually chronic or slowly progressive but can be sudden in the case of angle closure. This signs of angle closure are significant eye and head pain, blurred vision, red eyes, haloes around lights, nausea and vomiting.
Over the age of 80, the chance of developing glaucoma is 1 in 10. Open-angle glaucoma accounts for about 90% of cases in Australia.
The strongest risk factor for developing glaucoma is age. Family history also increases the risk of glaucoma by three times. Other conditions that contribute to glaucoma risk are diabetes, hypertension, shortsightedness and raised intraocular pressures.
Closed-angle glaucoma presents with sudden onset of vision loss with significant eye pain or pressure around the eye. Other associated symptoms include redness of the eye, haloes around lights, nausea and vomiting. Open-angle glaucoma is usually painless or asymptomatic, as it only affects your peripheral vision and progresses more slowly.
Early detection is the best form of prevention for complications of glaucoma and vision loss. Regular eye checks with visual field testing are very important, especially if you have a family history of glaucoma and are over the age of 40, or are over the age of 50 without a family history of glaucoma.
Glaucoma treatment varies from patient to patient, with the two main options being eye drops or surgery. Trabeculectomy is a surgical procedure than relieves pressure in the eye by creating a pocket in the trabecular meshwork of the eye to allow fluid to drain. Various types of eye drops that act to reduce intraocular pressure can also be used as therapy in the alternative. Adherence to a drops regime is very important in keeping glaucoma well controlled.
The most important factors in ensuring a good prognosis for glaucoma are early detection and adherence to treatment. Regular eye checks and visual field testing can detect any early changes and treat these quickly to preserve your best vision.