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What is Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye disease that results in vision loss due to damage to the optic nerve at the back of the eye. Approximately 300,000 Australians have glaucoma. Individuals who have a first degree relative with glaucoma have a 10 fold risk of developing the disease.

In Australia, optometrists routinely assess patients for signs of glaucoma during a comprehensive eye examination.

Testing involves assessing the appearance of the optic nerve with ophthalmoscopy or retinal photography and measuring the intraocular pressure of the eye with a tonometer. In some instances visual fields or an optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan may be performed to give further clinical information to enable the practitioner to determine whether glaucoma is present or not.

How Do I Know if I Have Glaucoma

In most cases, an individual with glaucoma will not experience symptoms of glaucoma in the early stages of the disease. That is why regular eye examinations are so important. Risk of developing glaucoma increases with age.

Two out of every one hundred Australians will develop glaucoma in their lifetime. At the age of 80 this number increases to one out of eight Australians. 

Left untreated, the optic nerve becomes damaged and vision gradually deteriorates. Early vision loss is often tricky for an individual with glaucoma to detect, as the other eye is able to compensate for the loss in sight. This loss in sight is often in one’s peripheral vision initially. When a significant amount of nerve fibres become damaged in the optic nerve, the sight loss becomes more central. Vision cannot be restored once lost, and that is why it is important to detect and treat glaucoma early.

How to Treat Glaucoma

Treatment for glaucoma can vary depending on the type of glaucoma identified. The usual treatment options include eye drops, laser surgery and traditional eye surgery.

Our optometrists are able to detect glaucoma, prescribe glaucoma medication, refer patients to ophthalmologists for glaucoma treatments including surgery and co-manage patients who have glaucoma with their ophthalmologist.