What is glaucoma?
The term “glaucoma” covers a number of different eye conditions, involving the damage to the optic nerve. This causes the field of vision having ever larger gaps, which mostly remain unnoticed at first. In advanced stages, your ability to see things sharply (visual acuity) also gets worse. One common cause is that there is too much pressure inside the eye. This pressure is called intraocular pressure (IOP).
How will this condition affect me?
Damage to the optic nerve causes the field of vision to become progressively impaired over the years, and can even eventually cause blindness.
Initially certain areas within their field of vision will be difficult to visualize, or can only see them to a limited degree. Blind spots appear most often near the point of sharpest vision, but also outwards to the edges of the field of vision. These blind spots can make it increasingly difficult to get around in day-to-day life. When looking straight ahead, for example while driving, it is possible to have a clear view of the street, but people and objects to the right and left on the sidewalks will be indistinct.
Adjusting to different amounts of light may also be difficult, like stepping into the light from a darkened room, or it can be hard to judge obstacles like steps or the curb.
Because central vision is not affected from the start, these impairments are often not readily apparent.
Damage to the optic nerve is irreversible. By the time the first symptoms appear, this damage is usually already quite extensive. Glaucoma usually develops gradually, but can sometimes progress very rapidly as well. The blind spots may continue to spread over time, until it is only possible to see the very center of the visual field
How to diagnose??
Inability to see certain parts of the field of vision or only seeing them as blurred may be an initial sign. But an eye doctor can diagnose glaucoma even before the first symptoms become noticeable.
Your eye doctor will first ask about any existing symptoms and then examine the eye
How can it be treated?
Medication (eye drops), laser therapy or surgery from the main line of treatment which aims to lower intraocular pressure, thereby reducing the risk of impaired vision or blindness. It is estimated that 4 to 20 out of 100 people with high intraocular pressure will have loss of vision within five years. The risk will depend on different things like the amount of intraocular pressure, the thickness of the cornea and a person’s age. People with very high intraocular pressure run a substantially higher risk than people whose intraocular pressure is only slightly elevated.
Lowering high intraocular pressure can help to delay or stop the gradual progression of loss of vision. Glaucoma cannot be cured, however, because existing damage to the optic nerve cannot be reversed. Eye drops are used both as prevention and treatment to lower the intraocular pressure. Depending on the specific product, you use them either once or several times a day. If eye drops are not enough, or if they are not well tolerated, surgery can be an option for permanently lowering intraocular pressure to certain target levels.