Glaucoma is often referred to as the 'sneak thief of sight'. Over 300,000 Australians are affected and half don't even know it. Sufferers initially have few symptoms and by the time they do suffer symptoms, some vision has permanently been lost. If they continue to ignore these symptoms, they will slowly and almost certainly go blind.
The eye is an amazing organ. Its delicate structure is constantly bathed by a clear fluid called the Aqueous which supplies nourishment and removes waste products. Glaucoma causes a build up of this fluid, putting pressure on the optic nerve, damaging it irreversibly.
Dr Ivan Goldberg, Ophthalmologist, explains the eye is like a kitchen sink with water running in from the tap, water running around the sink and water running out the drain. With Glaucoma, something goes wrong with the way that fluid circulates and the way it drains.
Dr Goldberg has seen how debilitating the condition can be. The key is to have the condition diagnosed as early as possible because treatment is directed at stopping the disease from getting worse. The earlier the diagnosis the more people can be saved from visual disability.
Age is the most common risk factor, others include a family history of the disease, raised blood pressure, short sightedness, previous trauma to the eye, diabetes and steroid use.
Testing is simple, comfortable and can be done accurately by a General Practitioner, an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist.
Although any damage detected can not be reversed, the disease can be stopped successfully. A special dissolving contact lens is placed into the eye every day which delivers medication directly to the surface. Other treatments include daily eye drops, laser treatment or surgery to the eye itself.
An annual eye pressure test is recommend for everyone with diabetes, or who is over the age of 40, for adults and children with a strong family history of the disease or any of the other risk factors mentioned earlier.