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Glaucoma is progressive damage that occurs to the optic nerve due to the pressure inside your eye being too high for your particular eye. Normal pressure is 10 - 20 mmHg and most people with pressure in that range do not develop glaucoma. Some people with other risk factors may still develop glaucoma whilst never having high pressure; these people need their pressure to be at the lower end of the normal range (8 - 12 mmHg).

Who is at risk of developing glaucoma?

The following are characteristics that increase a person’s risk for glaucoma:

    • Family history of glaucoma
    • High pressure within the eye (not something that you can feel; it needs to be measured)
    • Thin cornea (measured by your Ophthalmologist)
    • A strong script for glasses (either short or long sighted) 
    • Older age

 

Is glaucoma related to cataract?

Cataract refers to a gradual thickening and clouding of the natural lens that is within your eye. Cataract and glaucoma often develop at around the same age, but they are not usually directly related.  Operating on a cataract can lead to improved control of the pressure within the eye and therefore be helpful in managing glaucoma. Some patients who are long sighted (glasses script of +2.0 or higher) may need cataract surgery to prevent acute glaucoma. 

How is glaucoma diagnosed?

Diagnosis can be difficult, simply because glaucoma can be subtle and quite varied in presentation. Diagnosis is based on the pressure in your eye, your peripheral vision (Humphrey Visual Field or HVF) and the appearance of the optic nerve. New scans (OCT) of the optic nerve are also important in the diagnosis and monitoring of glaucoma. 

GLAUCOMA OCTHVF

How is glaucoma treated?   

The treatment for glaucoma is to lower the pressure within your eyes (the intraocular pressure or IOP). 

Eye drops: 5 different types of drops; all of them work and are low risk, but different drops work for different people.

Laser: relatively new, but accepted as an excellent treatment or in addition to eye drops

Surgery: usually saved as a last resort for patients who have not had enough results from eye drops or laser.

Will I go blind?

Without treatment, some people do become blind and this usually occurs over the course of many years. The most troubling part is that they don’t realise that they are losing vision until they have severe and permanent vision loss. 

The vast majority of people with glaucoma who are being treated and monitored will never go blind; they are still able to drive a car and most people don’t have any trouble in their daily life. 

Are there any lifestyle factors that might help or harm my eyes?

Most things that are good for you heart or brain will be good for your eyes:

Maintain a healthy, balanced diet of fruit, vegetables and animals products (or as directed by a nutritionist if you are vegetarian or vegan).

Exercise regularly: low to moderate intensity exercise for at least 20 minutes 3 times per week. Yoga is not suitable for patients with glaucoma.

Do not smoke anything.

Continue your eye drops: if you run out of drops, call for another script. It is very important that you use them regularly as instructed and you do not have time off the treatment.