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Glaucoma

​Glaucoma is Singapore's most common cause of permanent blindness. Many call it the "silent thief of sight" because it can steal your vision away without you even knowing it – quietly, painlessly and irreversibly.

Glaucoma is a disease of the most important structure in your eye: the optic nerve – an 'electrical cable' which transmits signals from the eyeball to the brain. In glaucoma, the optic nerve is damaged from a variety of causes.

​There are several types of glaucoma and each causes optic nerve damage in its own way. If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, you should ask your doctor which type you have.

Types of Glaucoma:

Open angle glaucoma

The eyeball's drainage system slowly becomes defective, leading to high internal pressure. This is the most common form and it is painless.

Closed angle glaucoma

The eyeball's drainage system physically closes up (slowly or suddenly), leading to high internal pressure. This can be painful, especially the sudden, acute version.

Low pressure glaucoma

The optic nerve itself is so weak in these patients that it gets damaged with normal eyeball pressures. This variety is also painless.

Other types

High eyeball pressure can also be caused by other eye conditions like diabetes, cataracts, inflammation and surgery. In rare cases, children may be born with defective drainage systems.

Glaucoma suspect

These patients have not been proven to have glaucoma. Some may have high pressure without any detectable nerve damage. Others have weak-looking optic nerves, but no definite loss of function.

​There are two broad classes of glaucoma:

  • Chronic glaucoma causes very slow and painless reduction of vision.
  • Acute glaucoma causes severe, sudden eye redness, pain and blurring of vision.

Unfortunately, most glaucoma patients suffer (unknowingly) from the chronic form and hence without that they have glaucoma until it is quite advanced.

By the time glaucoma causes any visual problems, there is already severe damage to your optic nerve. That is why regular eye check-ups are so important for older people and and those with a family history relatives of glaucoma patients.

Diagnosing glaucoma

Your eye doctor may be the only person who can tell you if you have glaucoma. He or she can do so in the following ways:

  • By checking your eyeball pressure
  • By examining the appearance of your optic nerve
  • By using a computer to test your visual field
  • By using high resolution imaging of the optic nerve

You can be assured that with regular eye checks, you have every chance of detecting glaucoma and preventing it from stealing your vision.

How will my eye doctor treat my glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a lifelong disease. Once diagnosed, a patient requires strict follow-up with his eye doctor for the rest of his life. Your eye specialist will usually focus treatment on lowering your eyeball pressure, by one or more of the following methods:

Eye drops

For most people, eye drops are sufficient in controlling the disease. They work in a number of ways, but mostly by lowering your eyeball pressure.

Laser treatment

Laser can be used to treat certain types of glaucoma. It is also used to prevent the acute form of glaucoma in some patients.

Surgery

Eye surgery is always the last resort when the above methods have failed to limit damage to the patient's optic nerve.

The goal of treatment is to prevent further damage to the optic nerve and to preserve remaining vision.

How can I prevent glaucoma?

Unfortunately, glaucoma is not a preventable disease. The best way to combat it is to detect it early. You can do this by going for regular eye checks, especially if you belong to one of the following groups:

  • You are over 40 years of age and you have not had your eyes checked regularly, especially if you are female and Chinese
  • Someone in your family already has glaucoma
  • You have diabetes or high blood pressure
  • You are very short-sighted or long-sighted
2019/06/03
2019/08/22
Last Updated on