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What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye conditions where an increase in fluid pressure inside the eye gradually damages the optic nerve causing vision loss.

Because the loss of vision happens slowly, a person with glaucoma may not notice any changes to their vision until a significant reduction in sight has occurred. Without treatment, this loss continues until the eye is blind. It may surprise you to know that you often can't feel any increase in the pressure of your eye. The only way to know is to get your optometrist to measure it. The other reason that glaucoma is often called "the silent thief of sight" is that it damages your peripheral vision. We are all aware of what blurred vision may be like, but we cannot accurately measure our side vision or be aware if it has changed. Every Visique optometrist can measure your peripheral vision and monitor it for change.

Even if you think you've got perfect vision or that your current contact lenses or glasses are suited to your eyes, it's important to get your eyes tested at least every two years.


"Too many people suffer with eye conditions without knowing just how bad their eyesight has got. All too often we examine people in our community who don't realise how badly their eyesight has deteriorated.

A customer I saw earlier this year came to the practice after he failed a routine driver's licence renewal eye test. At 45 years of age, he hadn't noticed that his eyesight had changed much at all. After examining him we found he had advanced Glaucoma in his left eye and early signs of the disease in his right eye. Glaucoma affects the eye very slowly, so it's common for people not to notice how much of their vision they've lost.

Our customer said he had no idea how badly his sight had deteriorated, let alone that he had glaucoma: While it's devastating that we caught the disease too late and that he'll never be able to drive again, the fact that the disease has now been detected means he will hopefully maintain my current level of sight with the help of laser treatment. He wished that he had tested for Glaucoma earlier."

says Andrea Kaijser, optometrist at Visique Shattky on Russell Optometrists.

There are three main types of glaucoma:

  1. Chronic glaucoma is the most common type where the drainage channels slowly become blocked over many years.

  2. Acute glaucoma occurs when there is a sudden blockage of the drainage system. This is painful and causes permanent damage to sight if not treated promptly.

  3. Secondary glaucoma is where injury, inflammation or tumour blocks the drainage channels.

Anyone may develop glaucoma, but the risk tends to increase with age (about 2 in 100 New Zealanders over 40 years of age have glaucoma) and is more likely if there is a family history of glaucoma.

Treatment

While glaucoma cannot currently be prevented, early treatment can help protect your eyes against vision loss. Because there are often no symptoms at first, regular eye examinations with your Visique optometrist, especially for those over 40 years of age, can help detect glaucoma in its early stages.