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FAQs

Glaucoma FAQs

03/12/2019

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Why is the eye (optic) nerve so important to sight?

The optic nerve is actually an extension of the brain. It consists of a bundle of more than one million nerve fibres, carrying electrical signals from the eye to the brain. The brain then processes that electrical information into the image that we see.

Does increased eye pressure mean that I have or will develop glaucoma?

Not necessarily. If eye pressure increases, you are at risk of developing glaucoma. However, it does not mean that you will definitely develop the disease. Some people can tolerate elevated eye pressure better than others. A particular level of eye pressure may be too high for one person and be completely normal for someone else.

A diagnosis of glaucoma is only made if there is damage to the optic nerve. If you have high eye pressure but no nerve damage, then you have ocular hypertension – this is different to glaucoma. But it’s important that your eyes are regularly monitored, as people with high eye pressure are more likely to develop glaucoma.

Even if you don’t have increased eye pressure, regular eye examinations are important – this is particularly true once you reach the age of 50.

Can I develop glaucoma without having an increase in eye pressure?

Yes, you can. This is called normal-tension glaucoma (a form of open-angle glaucoma) and is thought to be related to poor blood supply to the eye nerve.

What can I do to protect my sight from glaucoma?

Vision lost from glaucoma cannot be recovered and treatment can only prevent worsening of the disease. Therefore, it’s important that we detect glaucoma at an early stage, before it causes vision loss.

Everyone over the age of 40 who is in a high-risk group should have an eye examination every year.

If you have been prescribed medication to treat glaucoma, be sure to take it exactly as directed by your eye care professional. Do not stop taking the medication (even if your eyes feel OK) and make sure you attend regular checkups with your ophthalmologist.

What can I do if glaucoma has already caused me to lose vision?

Patients with mild-to-moderate glaucoma will still have good central vision and can still see and read well. The side (peripheral) vision is first to be affected and, in most cases, is not noticeable.

In advanced glaucoma, vision can be severely restricted and you will need a formal assessment to see if you meet the minimum vision requirements to legally drive. Unfortunately, vision lost from glaucoma cannot be recovered.

There are a number of low-vision services and devices that can help you make the most of your remaining vision. Anyone who has significant vision loss should be referred to a low-vision specialist in order to assist them with their ability to perform daily tasks.

There are a number of agencies and community organisations that offer counselling, training, and other special services for people with visual impairments.

What should I do if someone close to me is at risk of glaucoma?

Encourage them to visit their eye care professional at least once every two years in order to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Remember that early treatment of glaucoma slows progression of the disease and will help to save valuable vision.

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