Glaucoma is a type of eye disease that damages the optic nerve, which carries visual information entering the eye to the brain.
The most usual cause of glaucoma is due to an increase in pressure inside the eye (ocular hypertension), which diminishes the blood supply that provides vital oxygen and nutrients to the optic nerve.
If left untreated, glaucoma first leads to a decrease in peripheral vision (causing what is known as 'tunnel vision') and as it progressively worsens it can lead to blindness. In fact, glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness around the world, behind cataracts.
The commonest type of glaucoma in Malta is Primary Open-angle Glaucoma (POAG).
POAG is the most widespread variety of glaucoma where peripheral vision gradually diminishes. This change in your vision field is usually difficult to notice at first, as it's very gradual and doesn't impair your day-to-day activities by much. However, by the time it becomes obvious, the eye damage that has been caused is usually irreversible.
If the pressure inside the eye remains high and it isn't treated properly, your field of vision can become limited to a point that you can only see objects that are directly in front of you (tunnel vision), making activities like driving or handling heavy machinery very dangerous. Ultimately, if high eye pressure is kept uncheck, glaucoma can lead to total vision loss.
When glaucoma is treated early, vision can be maintained easily. There are various treatment options available, including glaucoma surgery, laser and medication that aim to relieve the high pressure inside the eye.
Since glaucoma is often painless and difficult to notice in the initial stages, routine eye testing and examination is the best way to catch this eye health condition early.
Eye health professionals, like optometrists and ophthalmologists, make use of various tools and techniques during eye tests to measure intraocular pressure and determine the size of your visual field to determine out whether you could be at risk of vision loss due to glaucoma.