Glaucoma is a relatively common disease of the eye in which the optic nerve is damaged, leasing to progressive, irreversible loss of vision if left untreated. It is often, but not always, associated with increased pressure in the fluid of the eye.
The nerve damage caused by glaucoma involves loss of retinal ganglion cells in a characteristic pattern. One person may develop nerve damage at a relatively low pressure, while another may have high eye pressure for many years and never develop nerve damage. Untreated glaucoma leads to permanent damage of the optic nerve and resultant visual field loss, which can progress to blindness.
Glaucoma can be roughly divided into two main categories: ‘open angle‘ and ‘closed angle‘ glaucoma. Closed angle glaucoma can appear suddenly and is often painful; visual loss can progress quickly but the discomfort often leads patients to seek medical attention before permanent damage occurs. Open angle, chronic glaucoma tends to progress at a slower rate and the patient may not notice that they have lost vision until the disease has progressed significantly.
Glaucoma has been nicknamed the ‘silent thief of sight‘ because the loss of vision normally occurs gradually over a long period of time and is often only recognised when the disease is quite advanced. Once lost, this damaged visual field cannot be recovered. Worldwide,glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness.