Glaucoma: The silent thief of sight

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What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma, commonly known as ‘the silent thief of sight”, is a chronic eye disease whereby increased intraocular pressure in the eyes causes damage to the optic nerves at the back of your eyes. These delicate nerves are responsible for sending messages from the eye to the brain.

What causes glaucoma?

 There are different types of glaucoma, each with different causes.

Open angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. It is due to an imbalance in the production and drainage of fluid in the eye. This condition progresses slowly, and patients might not be aware until it is picked up at a routine eye examination. Patients might not notice the deterioration of their vision until the late stages as there are no symptoms.

Narrow angle glaucoma is caused by a blockage of drainage canals in the eye. This causes a sudden increase in intraocular pressure in the eye, and requires immediate medical attention. Patients will experience headache, nausea and vomiting. They might also see rings of circles around lights.

Normal tension glaucoma is a unique form of glaucoma whereby there is damage to the optic nerve and loss of vision although intraocular pressure in the eye is normal. Japanese people are more at risk of getting normal tension glaucoma.

Secondary glaucoma may develop as a secondary condition after surgery eg diabetes, cataracts, or if there is trauma to the eye.

Who is at risk of glaucoma?

  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Age
  • High myopia or short-sightedness
  • Use of steroids
  • Diabetes
  • Previous trauma to the eye

At the initial stages of glaucoma, there are no symptoms such as pain or discomfort and often, the condition will progressive gets worse. It is only when the patient experiences symptoms such as poor night vision or tunnel vision before the disease is picked up. Unfortunately, the damage caused by glaucoma is irreversible, and may lead to blindness in serious cases. Hence, it is important to schedule regular eye examinations, especially if you are over the age of 40 or have any family history of glaucoma. During the eye examination, the eye doctor will carry out comprehensive testing such as visual acuity, eye pressure check, visual field and a thorough examination of your retina.

If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, the ophthalmologist will decide if eyedrops to reduce eye pressure or surgery is required, depending on the severity of your condition. You are advised to follow up with the eye doctor regularly to keep the condition in control and to preserve your eyesight.