Our health focus this month is something we think about and see every day as optometrists here on the Gold Coast at Envision Optical: Glaucoma. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world and is a condition that can be successfully treated in most cases if detected early enough. Here’s some information about glaucoma. Next week I’ll write about some of the promising research results with nutrition and glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a disease where the optic nerve at the back of the eye, which connects the eye to the brain, is progressively decaying. It is most commonly associated with raised fluid pressure inside the eye. The progressive decay of the optic nerve causes a gradual loss of peripheral vision, and if left untreated, the patient will eventually have severe irreversible vision loss. There are usually NO SYMPTOMS in most forms of glaucoma, so it is vitally important for everyone to have their vision and eye health check every two years at least. More than 300 000 Australians have glaucoma, with up to half unaware they have the disease.
What Causes it?
There are a number of different forms of glaucoma with individual unique causative factors. Glaucoma genes have been identified in recent studies, and there has been shown to be a 10 times greater risk if you have a direct relative with the condition. Patients with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and myopia are also more likely to be affected.
How do we assess it?
Your Envision Optical optometrist always performs a thorough examination of the optic nerve and checks your intraocular pressure at every full examination. We recommend Digital Retinal Photography as the best method of recording the optic nerve health to allow for ease of future comparison. If glaucoma is suspected, we will recommend undergoing computerised peripheral visual field assessment, 3D HD OCT nerve scan, OCT corneal thickness assessment, and gonioscopy. All of these tests are essential to diagnose glaucoma correctly.
If the results of testing indicate a high likelihood of glaucoma you will be referred to an ophthalmologist for confirmation of the diagnosis and commencement of treatment. Treatment is crucial because you will gradually go blind if nothing is done. Most patients are able to be successfully treated by using eye drops which lower the pressure inside your eyes. This has been shown to be an effective treatment to prevent progressive nerve damage. There is no permanent cure. The treatment is ongoing and will require daily instillation of drops, usually for the rest of your life. If drops are ineffective, further treatments by laser or surgery will be considered by your specialist to effectively lower your eye pressure.
So the take home message is have regular eye exams at least every two years and don’t fall into the trap of thinking just because you see well, that there couldn’t be anything wrong with your eye health. If its been a while book an eye test today.