Glaucoma is a condition which affects the optic nerve and if untreated can lead to significant and permanent vision loss. In severe cases it can cause blindness, but fortunately treatment can preserve remaining vision in nearly everyone with glaucoma. The key thing in glaucoma is early diagnosis so that treatment can be more effective.
Glaucoma is one of the reasons everyone should have a regular eye examination, especially over the age of 45. Early glaucoma can only be diagnosed through a thorough eye test from an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Many people with glaucoma have raised intraocular pressure (IOP) and this will be measured as part of a routine eye examination. The health of the optic nerve is examined by looking inside the eyes with a microscope, with photos often taken to provide a visual record of how the nerve looks. Other areas inside the eye can also change their appearance in some forms of glaucoma. If there is a suspicion of glaucoma, these initial tests get followed up with a quality-check of the peripheral vision - called a 'visual field test'. In glaucoma it is the peripheral vision that is affected first.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is the latest diagnostic tool to greatly enhance the early diagnosis of this condition. This test should be performed on people with a family history of glaucoma as a sensible precaution.
If we think the diagnosis of glaucoma is likely, we refer the client for further assessment and treatment by an ophthalmologist. Often treatment just involves drops once or twice a day, although sometimes glaucoma can require laser treatment or surgery.
Everyone should have their eyes tested regularly for glaucoma, especially as they get older, or if there is a family history of the condition.
For those with advanced glaucoma affecting their vision, we can help out with advice and visual aids.