Q: Am I at risk of developing glaucoma?
A: Yes, everybody is at risk of developing glaucoma: 2-3% of Australians will be affected by glaucoma in their lifetime. Some people have a higher risk, particularly those who:
Learn more about who is at risk?
Q: There’s glaucoma in my family – what does this mean for me?
A: If you have a direct family member with glaucoma (parent, sibling, or child), you are at increased risk of developing glaucoma yourself. This is because in many cases, glaucoma is an inherited (genetic) disease that is passed on within families. Regular visits to your eye health professional are recommended.
Q: How often should I be checked for glaucoma?
For those already diagnosed, once your treatment is effective and your glaucoma is stable then you should visit your eye care practitioner as directed by them. You may need to go back more frequently when you first go onto medications, or when your medications are changed or if your glaucoma is not stable. Your eye-health practitioner will advise you of the frequency that is most suitable for your case.
If you have never been checked for glaucoma, then you should go to your optometrist and start being checked by the age of 35 years. Early detection, through regular and complete eye exams, is the key to protecting your vision from damage caused by glaucoma.
Q: How do I find a glaucoma eye specialist?
A: Click here find an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) near you.
Q: I’ve just been diagnosed, what now?
A: You will usually have been recommended a course of treatment - eye drops are the most common form of treatment although laser and surgery are also used. Eye drops are to be instilled every day and depending on the eye drops prescribed, the dosage will be one (or more) drop(s) each day. In some cases more than one type of eye drop will be prescribed.
It is important to follow your treatment plan and appointments, as recommended by your doctor. This is because glaucoma is a life-long, often progressive condition, and appropriate treatment can prevent vision loss.
Q: I was told to use my eye drops every day and to make sure I did it at the same time each day. Why is that important?
A: The eye drops only work when they are being used – if you stop using them the eye pressure will increase again. Hence it is important to use them every day, otherwise the IOP will fluctuate. There is some evidence to suggest that fluctuations in IOP may be as harmful to the optic nerve as high IOP.
Using the drops at the same time each day prevents day-to-day fluctuations in 24 hour IOP pattern, however is not as important as using the drops every day. Getting into a fixed daily routine generally helps patients to remember to use the drops each day. If, on the occasional day, you are a little late with using the drops, it is better to use the drops late than not at all.
Q: Is glaucoma related to my blood pressure?
A: There is growing evidence that factors other than high eye pressure may predispose a person to glaucomatous damage. It is clear that eye pressure is important in glaucoma, but it does not explain why glaucoma develops in all patients. Although, blood pressure has received significant attention, its relationship to glaucoma is not entirely understood.
Low Blood Pressure
Studies have consistently reported that low blood pressure is a risk factor for glaucoma. When blood pressure is low the pressure driving blood into the eye (the ocular perfusion pressure) is weaker. This may lead to poor delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the optic nerve, potentially contributing to injury. This can occur in patients who normally have low blood pressure, but also in those who are over treated for their high blood pressure.
Ocular perfusion pressure can be low at night when it is natural for blood pressure to dip and eye pressure to increase. Thus injury to the optic nerve could be occurring overnight.
High blood pressure
Studies tell us that increasing blood pressure can result in higher eye pressure, possibly because of increased fluid production and/or altered fluid drainage. However, the effect of blood pressure on eye pressure is very small, with 10 mmHg (millimetres of mercury) increase in blood pressure only increasing eye pressure by 0.26 mmHg.
In addition to increasing eye pressure and the possible risk of glaucoma, high blood pressure can also cause damage to the retina and its blood vessels. This might mean that the blood vessels in the eye are less able to cope with fluctuations in ocular perfusion pressure.
Tell your care team about your blood pressure.
It is important for your eye care practitioner to know your medical conditions, including your blood pressure medications. A commonly used glaucoma medication is a topical beta-blocker eye drop. Oral beta-blockers used to treat high blood pressure can also decreased heart rate. Therefore, use of both an oral beta-blocker and a beta-blocker in eye drop form could potentially have unwanted side effects.
Overall, it is best to avoid very high or very low blood pressure. There is ongoing research to better understand the relationship between blood pressure and glaucoma so that doctors can better guide their glaucoma patients.
Q: If glaucoma can’t be cured then why do I need treatment?
A: Glaucoma cannot be cured, but in most cases it can be controlled successfully with treatment (eye drops, laser and/or surgery) and further loss of sight either prevented or slowed. If a person with glaucoma does not undergo treatment, their optic nerve may become progressively damaged. As a result, the peripheral (side) and eventually central vision, will deteriorate. Damaged vision due to glaucoma is irreversible and if left untreated may progress to blindness.
Q: Will I lose my licence because I have glaucoma?
A: This depends on the amount of vision loss your glaucoma has caused. Fitness to drive for a private car licence requires a best corrected visual acuity of 6/12 or better, with both eyes open. In addition there needs to be at least 120 degrees of visual field free of glaucoma defects with at least 10 degrees free of defects above the horizon. If either of these criteria are not met, a restricted licence may still be possible. Note that licensing requirements vary between states.
Find more information about driving with glaucoma in the following two articles:
Q: My doctor has recommend treatment/surgery for me? Will it restore my vision?
A: Unfortunately vision lost to optic nerve damage cannot be restored, it is permanent and irreversible. The aim of treatment is to reduce the risk of further glaucoma damage. Your doctor has made a recommendation as part of your glaucoma management plan, to best look after the sight you have now.
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