Glaucoma is a progressive disease of the optic nerve. It can be associated with elevated pressure inside the eye and can lead to permanent vision loss. Around 30,000 New Zealanders have this condition.Because there are usually no symptoms at first, glaucoma is called the “sneak thief of sight”. As the disease progresses, a person with glaucoma may notice his or her vision gradually failing.
The average person over the age of 40 has about a 1% chance of developing glaucoma. However, those who have a relative with glaucoma have a much greater chance of developing the disease. Glaucoma can be detected by regular check-ups. Everyone over the age of 40 should be checked for glaucoma at least every five years, and those with a family history more frequently. People have presented with severe glaucoma damage after many years of purchasing “Hobby” glasses. The harm does not come from the glasses but from the absence of any eye examination over long periods of time.
The disease can be managed to prevent further damage and associated vision loss. Treatment for glaucoma is aimed at lowering the eye pressure. The earlier the detection and implementation of treatment the greater the chance of preventing loss of sight.
A standard vision examination at Haydons includes screening for glaucoma. Typical tests for this disease include measurement of the eye pressure, assessment and imaging of the optic nerve, and visual field testing. We also have innovative technology that lets us ‘see under the surface’ of the retina and better assess the optic nerve and nerve fibres feeding into it. This instrument, the Optical Coherence Tomographer (OCT), is proving to be a valuable tool in the diagnosis of glaucoma.
With timely treatment and good education, people with glaucoma can retain excellent vision their entire life.