Glaucoma is an irreversible and progressive condition that is often asymptomatic early on but may cause significant disability from visual impairment when advanced.
When a diagnosis of glaucoma is made, one of the first concerns expressed by patients is whether they might go blind. In reality, blindness from glaucoma is very uncommon for several reasons. Firstly, we are getting increasingly better at detecting the disease earlier. The earlier the disease is detected, the sooner treatment can be initiated and the better the outcome is likely to be. Secondly, glaucoma in general is a condition that progresses slowly over many years. Appropriate treatment can further slow or halt this progression. Thirdly, our options for treating glaucoma is ever expanding so when one strategy does not work there is often something else available that may work better.
Studies show that the rate of developing blindness in one eye only in those with glaucoma is up to 9% during a lifetime and closer to 2-5% for blindness in both eyes. It is important to remember that this is a statistical definition of blindness (Visual field reduction within 10 degrees of centre or acuity less than 6/60) and not total blindness which is probably less common again.
Those that progress to blindness either have very advanced disease before being detected, have an unusually aggressive type of glaucoma, have had it a very long time (50 years or more) or are not adherent to treatment. The best way to guard against vision loss is to be vigilant with treatment and have frequent eye checks.
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