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Glaucoma is a disease that affects the optic nerve. The optic nerve is important for vision, and when it is damaged, such as in glaucoma, vision may be affected as a result. Glaucoma is often (but not always) associated with of raised intraocular pressure (IOP). The most common type of glaucoma is termed “primary” as there is no specific cause, and this occurs most commonly in older patients. Glaucoma is a chronic condition.


Glaucoma does not cause any symptoms early in the course of the disease in many patients. In a typical patient with primary glaucoma it is the peripheral vision that is first affected which may not be noticed by the patient. Central vision is usually not affected until glaucoma is very advanced. Unfortunately, once the vision loss is detected by a patient, the disease is usually quite advanced. This vision loss is not reversible. If left untreated, only the central vision remains and eventually this can also lead to blindness. Occasionally patients may notice non-specific symptom such as headaches, eye tiredness, haloes around lights at night and/or patchy vision. Uncommonly, some patients may develop acute glaucoma, which is a painful condition, that also causes blurred vision.


When you are examined by your eye specialist, your vision will be tested along with the IOP and the optic nerve assessed. A visual field is usually performed. Your optic nerve may also be scanned using technology such as the OCT (ocular coherence tomography). This is a sophisticated scanner that quantifies the degree of optic nerve damage.


Most patients are treated using eyedrops to lower the IOP. Sufficient lowering of the intraocular pressure to prevent or delay further vision loss is the goal. If an inadequate response to eyedrops occurs then laser or surgery will be required. Glaucoma laser procedures (called laser trabeculoplasty) are office based treatments that can be very effective. Glaucoma surgery (called trabeculectomy) involves forming a new drainage to allow fluid to escape from the eye, thereby lowering the IOP. This procedure may be performed after or at the same time as cataract surgery. The aim is to preserve functional vision for the lifetime of the patient.


Glaucoma Australia www.glaucoma.org.au/