Q: What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is caused by a build-up of fluid in the eye, and increases the pressure. This can damage the optic nerve, and gradually lead to vision loss.
Glaucoma often goes undetected for a long time until something major is noticed such as a loss of peripheral vision.
Affecting two percent of Australians in their lifetime, the rates of glaucoma occurring in the population can increase to one in eight people above the age of 80.
The initial treatment for glaucoma involves using eye drops, but patients can find the need for daily use becoming burdensome, and side effects can include redness, stinging and irritation.
However surgical treatments are evolving.
It's actually an exciting time for glaucoma treatment with the recent development of new technologies such as microscopic implants that can deliver medication in an ongoing basis.
The warning signs can be detected at your regular eye check-up with your optometrist.
Maintaining consistent eye pressure control is important in treating glaucoma. Dissolvable implants can help provide sustained eye pressure reduction month after month from a single implant, without the need for daily eye drops.
Rapid advances in technology mean we can now offer patients a range of options to safely lower their eye pressure, reducing or in many cases even eliminating the need for glaucoma drops.
Our focus is not only on saving sight, but improving quality of life. The future for people with glaucoma is very bright.
The main risk factors for developing glaucoma are increased age, and having a first-degree relative with glaucoma.
Other factors include taking certain medications such as steroids, a diagnosis of diabetes, and the presence of existing eye conditions or injuries.
While vision loss due to glaucoma can't be reversed, the impact on a person's vision can be minimised if caught early.
The warning signs can be detected at your regular eye check-up with your optometrist, which tests both your optic nerve and the intra-ocular eye pressure.
When should I get my eyes checked?
It is important to get your vision checked at certain stages of life, when the eye commonly goes through changes.
Children should have their first vision check before starting school, and every two to three years after that. This will help them get the most out of their educational, physical and social development.
The teens are when vision problems start to become apparent such as squinting, tired eyes and headaches - often associated with the increased use of screens at high school.
From your 40s, your eye shows signs of deterioration making it harder to focus, produce fluid, or you may be feeling discomfort with glare.
This is also the age when you should be doing a general health check, and co-morbid conditions such as diabetes and heart issues may present themselves.
Around 60 people notice a deterioration in their sight; with distorted vision, eye spots or a loss of colour becoming apparent.
At this age vision loss can be associated with higher rates of depression, so it's good for your mental health to get an eye check too!
The Optometry Australia consumer website goodvisionforlife.com.au has further information on eye examinations, general vision concerns and a locator for your nearest vision assessment centre.
If you need further investigations done on your eyes, an optometrist can refer you to an ophthalmologist or eye specialist.
- Today's answer is provided by Melbourne Ophthalmologist Dr Nathan Kerr, through HealthShare, a digital company dedicated to improving the health of regional Australians. Submit questions, and find more answers, at healthshare.com.au.