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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Does glaucoma cause blindness?

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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

    Yes, glaucoma can cause blindness. However, if it is treated early the risk of blindness is reduced.

  • 19

    Thanks

    Dr Colin Clement

    Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

    This is a common fear among patients diagnosed with glaucoma. The short answer to this question is yes. However, whether glaucoma progresses to blindness depends on many factors. Stage of diagnosis is important. Those that present for the first time with very advanced glaucoma are at risk of progressing to blindness. So in this regard it is very important to identify and treat glaucoma early as treatment is proven to slow or halt the rate of vision loss. Non-adherence to treatment is another factor. If patients don't take treatment then they are more likely to deteriorate. Some patients have difficulty taking their glaucoma treatment and this will have a negative impact on their glaucoma control.

    It is important to consider definitions of blindness from glaucoma. I suspect most patients, when asking about blindness, are referring to no vision at all. This is different to medical definitions of glaucoma related blindness which may explain the difference between reported rates of blindness in studies and what we experience in clinical practice. A recent study from Europe using World Health Organisation (WHO) criteria of visual field loss to within 10 degrees of the centre of vision or acuity > 6/120 found a rate of 40% blindness in 1 or both eyes. This is a very high rate but consider that someone with loss of field to within 10 degrees may still have normal visual acuity (6/6) and therefore the ability to read a book, watch TV and live independently within their home environment. Therefore, using this definition, “blindness” as considered by most patients is probably overstated and doesn't occur quite as frequently as reported in the literature.

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