Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes damage to the optic nerve, leading to increasing loss of peripheral vision and eventually, if left untreated, complete vision loss. The risk of glaucoma increases with age and the prevalence in people older than 50 years is 2%, and 5% in people older than 70 years. Half of glaucoma patients are unaware of their condition as the disease does not present any symptoms, especially in the early stages. However, after macular degeneration, glaucoma is the next eye disease to cause vision loss.
Eye pressure is normal (10-21mmHg) in half of glaucoma patients, but not only a simple eye pressure measurement is necessary for diagnosis. To assess whether the patient is suffering from glaucoma or not, more comprehensive examinations such as OCT examinations of the macula, measurements of the retinal layers, and visual field examinations are needed. The risk factor for glaucoma is:
- high eye pressure
- Lens exfoliation
- Optic nerve papilla bleeding
- Genetic factors
- ethnic factors
Various tests are performed during your visit to the ophthalmologist: risk factors are detailed, eye pressure is measured, the structure of the eye is examined as well as camera angles, fundus photography, (OCT) of the papilla and optic nerve. The results of these examinations will allow the evaluation of the need for new examinations or the follow-up of changes. Without these tests, it is impossible for a doctor to estimate whether there is a risk of glaucoma, or whether the disease is already prevalent. As a reminder, a simple measurement of eye pressure is not a valid diagnostic criterion for diagnosing glaucoma.
In the treatment of glaucoma, the goal is to lower the pressure in the eye with medication, laser, or surgery. Most patients who are diagnosed early and have received treatment before extensive damage has been done manage fairly well with the disease in their lifetime. However, some types of glaucoma cause extensive damage already in the early stages (within a couple of months), so it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations for follow-up frequency.
Glaucoma is a serious condition that cannot be diagnosed simply by measuring eye pressure. Early treatment slows down or even stops the disease from progressing and patients can lead normal lives. A thorough examination should be done when presbyopia kicks in, usually around the age of 45. After that, regular examinations should be done according to the doctor’s recommendations.