Glaucoma is an eye disease you’re likely to have heard of before – whether it’s in the media, from your eye care practitioner, or your Great Aunt Edna announcing to the family that she’s been diagnosed with “gloocoma”. In the United States, approximately 3 million Americans have glaucoma. Specifically, in the state of California, an estimated 300,000 people live with this eye disease.
Inside the eyeball, a fluid known as aqueous humour is constantly being produced. It must be drained from the eye at a similar rate, otherwise with an increase in volume of fluid in the confined space of the eyeball, basic physics tells us the pressure inside this eye is going to rise. As the pressure rises, again physics tells us that something is going to get squished, and in the case of glaucoma, this something is the optic nerve. The optic nerve responds to light from the world around us and is responsible for carrying these neural signals to the brain to produce what we call vision. If the optic nerve becomes damaged from an increase of intraocular pressure (that is, pressure inside the eyeball) it can result in irreversible loss of sight, typically beginning with peripheral vision. Because we are not always actively aware of our peripheral vision, glaucoma has been labeled as the sneak thief of sight as its effects on the peripheral vision are often not noticed until the disease is at an advanced stage. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause total blindness and in the US, 9 to 12 per cent of blindness is due to glaucoma. The best way to ensure you catch this sneaky bugger early is to schedule regular check-ups with your eye care practitioner even if you don’t feel your vision has deteriorated.