Glaucoma Diagnosis and Management - Pietermaritzburg Eye Hospital

Glaucoma Diagnosis and Management

Glaucoma Diagnosis and Management

The optic nerve, sending messages about what the eye sees to the brain, is vital for good vision. When the pressure in the eye (intraocular pressure) rises, the optic nerve fibres gradually deteriorate. This group of diseases is called Glaucoma.

As one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60, glaucoma is more common in older adults, but can occur at any age.

Many forms of glaucoma have no warning signs. The effect is so gradual that you may not notice a change in vision until the condition is at an advanced stage. 

A build-up of the fluid within the eye (aqueous humour), due to overproduction or under-drainage causes eye pressure to increase. This resulting high pressure inside the eye pushes on the optic nerve and changes the shape of the nerve, called optic disc cupping. Continuous pressure on the nerve causes irreversible damage.

As you are unlikely to be aware of your intraocular pressure, screening is essential. Routine screening is recommended from the age of 40. Anyone with the following risk factors should be tested every year or two after the age of 35:

             • A higher than normal intraocular pressure reading

             • A biologically related family member who has or had glaucoma

             • Myopic eyes (your optometrist can advise you here)

             • Being of African ethnicity

Glaucoma is not linked to the clarity of your vision, so annual visits to an Optometrist are recommended, even if you don’t wear glasses.

Optometrists usually include a pressure test and examination of the retina and optic nerve at the back of the eye as part of the routine screening. If they detect an irregularity, you will be referred to an Ophthalmologist who will then do a full glaucoma screening, including a visual acuity test, intraocular pressure check and cup/disc ratio of the optic nerve. If any of these results are concerning, further tests may be needed, such as corneal thickness measurement, an optic nerve OCT scan, and visual field checks.

Being diagnosed with Glaucoma can be quite worrying because vision loss can’t be recovered. Fortunately, if glaucoma is recognised early, vision loss can be slowed or prevented. If you have the condition, your eye care team will monitor you regularly, and discuss the treatment options with you, if needed. The treatment may include eye drop medication, laser procedures or surgical procedures.

For more patient information and videos, visit the South African Glaucoma Society website: 

For more information please email or call 033 812 2020.

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