If glaucoma is not treated it can lead to vision loss and eventual blindness. The most common form of glaucoma is ‘open-angle’ glaucoma. It causes no pain or discomfort and can lead to peripheral vision loss. ‘Acute-angle’ glaucoma is more common in Asian people. It occurs when dramatically elevated eye pressure develops suddenly, requiring immediate medical attention.
How common is glaucoma?
One in 10 people over 80 years of age has glaucoma. It is estimated about 300,000 Australians have glaucoma and about half that population have not been diagnosed. People with a first-degree relative who has glaucoma have an eight-fold increased risk of developing the disease.
What are the symptoms?
Glaucoma progresses slowly and can often go unnoticed for a long period of time, until vision loss is advanced.
Symptoms may include:
- Painless, blurred vision
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Difficulty adjusting to low light
What are the causes?
Evidence suggests a family history may be responsible for the development of glaucoma. People aged over 50 years and people who have had a serious eye injury may be at increased risk of developing glaucoma. Similarly, diabetics, people with hypertension or people taking corticosteroid medication may be at increased risk of developing glaucoma.
Can I prevent glaucoma?
There are no known ways to prevent the onset of glaucoma but early detection and treatment helps prevent vision loss.
What treatment is available?
Glaucoma is treated by reducing the pressure in the eye. Common treatments include eye droplet medication, laser treatment and surgery to lower pressure in the eye. If detected early enough, treatment can slow or stop further vision loss from glaucoma, but it cannot restore vision already lost.
The Glaucoma Research Unit at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) is working on a range of projects to increase understanding of what causes glaucoma and to develop new treatments. Professor Jonathan Crowston, a leading glaucoma specialist, who established the unit and still oversees its work, is also the Managing Director of CERA and Ringland Anderson Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Melbourne.