Although there is currently no cure for glaucoma, it can be treated. The main goal in treating glaucoma is to manage the condition and avoid any further deterioration of vision with eye drops, laser surgery, incisional surgery or other medication, depending on the type and progression of the disease.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma, known as ‘the silent thief of sight’, refers to the group of diseases that affect the optic nerve at the back of the eye causing irreversible damage. It is the leading cause of irreversible blindness, affecting approximately 65 million people worldwide. Without treatment, the fibres that help to transmit visual information from the optic nerve to our brains start to deteriorate, interrupting the flow of information and causing permanent blindness.
It’s no coincidence that glaucoma has acquired this nickname. This group of diseases often sneaks up on people without them having experienced any pain or symptoms in the early stages. That’s because the disease affects peripheral vision first, making it harder to notice when both eyes are open.
What causes glaucoma?
Whilst there are several causes, most cases of glaucoma result from a build-up of pressure within the eye, when the aqueous fluid is over-produced or unable to drain away effectively. Because the damage is so gradual and one eye will often compensate for loss in the other, it can be very difficult to detect until the vision loss has become severe.
How to prevent glaucoma
The good news is that if glaucoma is picked up before vision is affected, irreversible vision loss and blindness can be prevented. Research also highlights some simple lifestyle changes like diet and exercise that can help reduce your risk.
The best thing you can do to safeguard your vision is to see your optometrist every 2 years. That’s because a regular eye examination with the same optometrist over time will ensure any changes in your vision can be detected before any permanent damage can occur. As they say, prevention is better than cure!
Exercise. A recent American study has shown that people who engaged in moderate to vigorous exercise had a lower risk of developing glaucoma than their less active counterparts. Specifically, the most active study participants had a 73% lower incidence of glaucoma compared with the least active.
Diet & Lifestyle. We’ve also seen that eating healthy and increasing consumption of omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish and other foods) can take a protective role in reducing one’s risk of glaucoma.
How to treat Glaucoma
Eye drops. The most common form of treatment is eye drops, and these help by reducing the production of fluid in the eye or increasing the pathways for the fluid to drain more effectively from the eye.
Laser. Laser treatment might be recommended to treat certain types of glaucoma to improve the flow of fluid within the eye. The benefit is that no physical opening is required for this treatment.
Surgery. Incisional surgery becomes relevant in cases where laser or other medication are not effective in managing the disease, usually when the glaucoma becomes more advanced and aggressive
Are you at risk?
We now know that if you have a direct family member with glaucoma, you are 10 times more likely to have glaucoma as those without. Glaucoma Australia’s CEO Annie Gibbins urges anyone from the age of 40 that has a family history of glaucoma, and those over 50 with no family history, to make an appointment for a comprehensive eye examination with an optometrist.
Over 40? Book an eye examination today.
While treatment can save remaining vision, it doesn’t improve your eye sight. The only way to know if you have the disease and to get ahead of the game, is to have your eyes tested regularly by an optometrist.Find your nearest optometrist now