Frequently Asked Questions


Q. What is glaucoma?

Answer. Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases in which the optic nerve at the back of the eye is slowly destroyed. In most people this damage is due to an increased pressure inside the eye - a result of blockage of the circulation of aqueous, or its drainage. In other patients the damage may be caused by poor blood supply to the vital optic nerve fibres, a weakness in the structure of the nerve, and/or a problem in the health of the nerve fibres themselves.

While glaucoma is more common as people age, it can occur at any age.

Q. What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

Answer. Chronic (primary open-angle) glaucoma is the most common type. It has no symptoms until eye sight is lost at a later stage.

Damage progresses very slowly and destroys vision gradually, starting with the side vision. One eye covers for the other, and the person remains unaware of any problem until a majority of nerve fibres have been damaged, and a large part of vision has been destroyed. This damage is irreversible. It is progressive and usually relentless. Treatment cannot recover what has been lost. But it can arrest, or at least, slow down the damage process. That is why it is so important to detect the problem as early as possible, to be able to start treatment with as little damage to the vision as possible.

Q. Who is at risk?

Answer. Although anyone can get glaucoma, some people have a higher risk, those with

•a family history of glaucoma



•short sightedness (myopia)

•long sightedness (hyperopia)

•eye injuries

•blood pressure

•past or present use of cortisone drugs (steroids)

People in these groups should have their first eye check no later than the age of 35. For most people, it is recommended to have an eye check for glaucoma by the age of 40.

Q. What are some of the forms of glaucoma?

Answer. Chronic (primary open-angle) glaucoma is the most common form of this disease. However, other forms occur:

•Low-tension or normal tension glaucoma. Occasionally optic nerve damage can occur in people with so-called normal eye pressure. This form of glaucoma is treated in the same manner as open-angle glaucoma.

•Acute (angle-closure) glaucoma. Acute glaucoma is when the pressure inside the eye rapidly increases due to the iris blocking the drain. An attack of acute glaucoma is often severe. People suffer pain, nausea, blurred vision and redness of the eye. Immediate medical help should be sought. If treatment is delayed there can be permanent visual damage in a very short time. Usually, laser surgery performed promptly can clear the blockage and protect against visual impairment.

•Congenital glaucoma. This is a rare form of glaucoma caused by an abnormal drainage system. It can exist at birth or develop later. Parents may note that the child is sensitive to light, has enlarged and cloudy eyes, and excessive watering. Surgery is usually needed.

•Secondary glaucomas. These glaucomas can develop as a result of other disorders of the eye such as injuries, cataracts, eye inflammation. The use of steroids (cortisone) has a tendency to raise eye pressure and therefore pressures should be checked frequently when steroids are used.

Q.  How do I know if I have glaucoma?

Answer. Unfortunately glaucoma is typically associated with painless and progressive loss of vision that may escape detection by the patient. This once again stresses the importance of a thorough eye history and examination, especially in patients with a family history of glaucoma. Only one type of glaucoma called angle-closure glaucoma is associated with a red, painful eye with blurred vision and even possibly nausea and vomiting. This is due to very high pressures resulting FROM a block in the drainage system of the eye. Most patients at risk for this type of glaucoma have structural differences in their eye which could be identified prior to an attack and preventative treatment could be performed. Rarely do patients with other types of glaucoma develop pressure high enough to have pain and redness.

Q. How is glaucoma treated?

Answer. The primary goal of treatment is to preserve vision. The typical first line of treatment is eye drops which lower the intra ocular pressure by helping fluid leave the eye or by reducing the amount of fluid produced in the eye. Some patients may need to take multiple different types of eye drops or

even eye drops plus medications in pill form to effectively lower the pressure. In addition, there are laser treatments for both angle closure and open angle glaucoma. Laser treatment for angle closure glaucoma is usually performed to prevent an acute attack as described above; while laser treatment for open angle glaucoma is performed when medications are not effective enough or the patient has difficulty taking medications. Surgery, which involves making a drainage system for the fluid in the eye, is usually performed when medications and lasers are ineffective.


1- Glaucoma Australia

2 -  DJO Digital Journal of Ophthalmology  (Harvard Medical School)



Useful links:



- http://www.nlm- http://www.nlm    ("Medlineplus" A Service of the US National Libaray of medicine)

- American Academy of Ophthalmology

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