JulEYE – Eye health awareness campaign – Glaucoma

JulEYE is The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) Eye Foundation’s national eye health awareness month that takes place during the month of July each year. In the interest of eye health awareness in the lead up to JulEYE, we are presenting a series of informative articles on several common eye conditions affecting many Australians.

If you have any questions or concerns about your vision, please contact our friendly staff to arrange an appointment with one of our eye doctors at Sydney Ophthalmic Specialists. You can contact us on (02) 9241 2914. Our eye specialists are: Dr Frank Martin, Dr Michael Jones, Dr Craig Donaldson, Dr Clare Fraser, Dr Caroline Catt, Dr Peter Martin and Dr Daniel Polya.

Our first article is on Glaucoma.


Glaucoma is known as the “Sneak Thief of Sight”

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases which cause damage to the optic nerve at the back of the eye. This damage occurs due to an increase in the pressure inside the eye. Increased eye pressure is commonly due to a problem with the circulation or drainage of fluid inside the eye, known as aqueous humor. The optic nerve may also be damaged due to structural changes in the nerve or nerve fibres, or a lack of blood supply to the nerve.

Damage to the optic nerve due to glaucoma causes a gradual loss of peripheral, or side vision. Advanced glaucoma if left untreated, can cause blindness.

What are the types of glaucoma?

  • The most common form of glaucoma is known as primary open-angle glaucoma, which is a chronic disease. Primary open angle glaucoma is caused by an increase to the pressure in the eye, which causes damage to the optic nerve.
  • Normal tension glaucoma, or low-tension glaucoma. Normal tension glaucoma is where damage occurs to the optic nerve in the setting of a normal ocular pressure.
  • Acute glaucoma, or angle-closure glaucoma. Acute glaucoma occurs when there is a sudden and dramatic increase to the pressure inside the eye caused by a narrowing of the drainage angle. Symptoms of acute glaucoma include sudden onset pain, blurred vision, nausea and redness of the eye. Acute angle closure glaucoma is an eye emergency, and immediate review with an ophthalmologist should be sought.
  • Congenital glaucoma. Congenital glaucoma is a rare form of glaucoma caused by an abnormal drainage system in children’s eyes. It can exist from birth or can develop later in childhood. Signs and symptoms of congenital glaucoma include light sensitivity, excessive watering of the eye, and an enlarged eye.
  • Secondary glaucoma. Secondary glaucoma is glaucoma caused by another eye problem such as eye inflammation, cataracts, ocular injuries, diabetes and retinal vein occlusion.

What are the signs and symptoms of Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is known as the “Sneak Thief of Sight” because the most common form of glaucoma (chronic, or open-angle glaucoma) often has no symptoms until a significant amount of eyesight has already been lost. Damage often progresses very slowly in glaucoma and destroys vision gradually, starting with the side vision. One eye compensates for the other, and the person remains unaware of any vision problem until a significant amount of nerve fibre damage has occurred, and a large part of vision has been destroyed. This damage is irreversible. It is progressive and usually relentless.

Did you know:

  • Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.
  • Over 300,000 Australians have glaucoma
  • One in 11 Australians will develop glaucoma.
  • Half of those with glaucoma are undiagnosed.
  • First degree relatives of glaucoma patients have an 8-fold increased risk of developing the disease.
  • The Australian health care cost of glaucoma in 2005 was $342 million.
  • The total annual cost of glaucoma in 2005 was $1.9 billion.
  • The total cost is expected to increase to $4.3 billion by 2025.











How is Glaucoma detected?

Glaucoma is detected through routine, regular eye checks with your optometrist or ophthalmologist. Your eye health care professional will check the pressure of the eye (Intraocular pressure), look at the health of the optic nerve, and may perform additional testing to scan the optic nerve using an Optical Coherence Tomographer (OCT), and may also perform a visual field test to map out the peripheral vision.

How is Glaucoma treated?

The aim of glaucoma treatment is to try to halt the progress of the disease, to prevent further vision loss. Treatment cannot recover what vision has already been lost. This is why it is so important to detect glaucoma as early as possible.

Eye drops are the most common form of treatment for glaucoma. These eye drops need to be used daily, and some need to be used several times each day. There are many different types of eye drops for the treatment of glaucoma. Oral medications may also be prescribed to treat glaucoma.

Laser treatment may be required. The laser treatment for glaucoma is known as laser trabeculoplasty. Often laser trabeculoplasty is performed when eye drops do not adequately control the pressure in the eye. In many cases eye drops will need to be continued after laser treatment for glaucoma.

Glaucoma may also be treated surgically. Surgery for glaucoma is known as trabeculectomy. Surgical intervention for glaucoma is considered after eye drops and laser have proven ineffective in controlling the pressure in the eye.

If you would like to book an appointment with an eye specialist for a glaucoma check-up, please call our friendly staff at Sydney Ophthalmic Specialists on (02) 9241 2914. Please request an appointment with Dr Frank Martin, Dr Michael Jones, Dr Craig Donaldson, Dr Clare Fraser, Dr Caroline Catt, Dr Peter Martin or Dr Daniel Polya.

Our next article as part of the eye health awareness campaign of JulEYE will be on Cataracts.