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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is glaucoma?

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  • Glaucoma Australia is the peak glaucoma awareness/education/support association in Australia.It is a national, not-for-profit registered charity dedicated to providing educational services to raise awareness about … View Profile

    Glaucoma is a progressive disease that affects the optic nerve. There is a gradual loss of the nerve cells that take information from the eye to the brain, and this leads to progressive visual loss, usually of peripheral vision

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    Dr Colin Clement

    Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

    I agree with the response offered by Glaucoma Australia. There are few points I would add to what has already been discussed.

    The optic nerve connects the eye to the brain and relays the information about vision from one to the other. At birth, the nerve contains approx 1.2 million nerve cells and this number gradually declines throughout life as part of the aging process. Normally this will not effect the vision significantly as there are sufficient remaining cells to “take up the slack”. Glaucoma is really an acceleration of this process, where the rate of nerve cell loss in the optic nerve speeds up. Early on it usually doesn't affect the vision but as it becomes more advanced it will. Typically it causes reduction of peripheral vision with central vision effected in more advanced glaucoma. It is uncommon to go blind from glaucoma although it is possible.

    There is no one single cause for glaucoma but there are many risk factors. The more risk factors you have, the higher the chance of developing it. Risk factors include elevated intraocular pressure, positive family history for glaucoma, increasing age, below average central corneal thickness, short-sightedness, disorders of peripheral circulation and low body weight.

    Irrespective of whether intraocular pressure is elevated or not at the time of diagnosis, the mainstay of treatmetn is reduction of intraocular pressure. This can be achieved using medication (eye drops), Laser or surgery. Each has specific indications and treatment needs to be tailored to the individual.

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