Glaucoma

If untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness.

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Glaucoma is Singapore’s most common cause of permanent blindness, accounting for 40 percent of blindness in the country. Many call it the “silent thief of sight” because it can steal your vision away without you even knowing it — quietly, painlessly and irreversibly.

Glaucoma is a disease of the most important structure in your eye: the optic nerve — an “electrical cable” which transmits signals from the eyeball to the brain. In glaucoma, the optic nerve is damaged by a variety of causes.

Causes of Glaucoma 

There are several types of glaucoma and each causes optic nerve damage in its own way. If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, you should ask your doctor which type you have.

Types of Glaucoma

Open-angle Glaucoma 

The eyeball’s drainage system slowly becomes defective, leading to high internal pressure. This is the most common form and it is painless. 

Closed-angle Glaucoma 

The eyeball’s drainage system physically closes up (slowly or suddenly), leading to high internal pressure. This can be painful, especially the sudden, acute version. 

Low-pressure Glaucoma 

The optic nerve itself is so weak in these patients that it gets damaged with normal eyeball pressures. This variety is also painless. 

Other Types of Glaucoma 

High eyeball pressure can also be caused by other eye conditions such as diabetes, cataracts, inflammation and surgery. In rare cases, children may be born with defective drainage systems. 

Glaucoma Suspect 

This refers to a patient who has not been proven to have glaucoma. Some patients may have high pressure without any detectable nerve damage. Others have weak-looking optic nerves, but no definite loss of function.

Glaucoma Signs and Symptoms

There are two broad classes of glaucoma:
Chronic glaucoma causes very slow and painless reduction of vision.
Acute glaucoma causes severe, sudden eye redness, pain and blurring of vision.

Unfortunately, most glaucoma patients suffer (unknowingly) from the chronic form and may not know that they have glaucoma until it is quite advanced.

By the time glaucoma causes any visual problems, there is already severe damage to your optic nerve. That is why regular eye check-ups are so important for older people and those with a family history of glaucoma.

Diagnosing Glaucoma 

Your eye doctor may be the only person who can tell you if you have glaucoma. He or she can do so in the following ways:
By checking your eyeball pressure
By examining the appearance of your optic nerve
By using a computer to test your visual field
By using high-resolution imaging of the optic nerve

You can be assured that with regular eye checks, you have every chance of detecting glaucoma and preventing it from stealing your vision.

Glaucoma Treatment 

Glaucoma is a lifelong disease. Once diagnosed, a patient requires strict follow-up with his eye doctor for the rest of his life. Your eye specialist will usually focus glaucoma treatment on lowering your eyeball pressure, by one or more of the following methods:

Eye Drops 

For most people, eye drops are sufficient in controlling the disease. They work in a number of ways, but mostly by lowering your eyeball pressure. 

Laser Treatment 

Laser can be used to treat certain types of glaucoma. It is also used to prevent the acute form of glaucoma in some patients. 

Surgery 

Eye surgery is always the last resort when the above methods have failed to limit damage to the patient’s optic nerve. 

The goal of treatment is to prevent further damage to the optic nerve and to preserve remaining vision.

Glaucoma Cannot Be Prevented

The best way to combat the disease is to detect it early. You can do this by going for regular eye checks, especially if you belong to one of the following groups:
You are over 40 years of age and you have not had your eyes checked regularly, especially if you are female and Chinese
Someone in your family already has glaucoma
You have diabetes or high blood pressure
You are very short-sighted or long-sighted

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