4th March 2024

Glaucoma is the number one cause of irreversible blindness globally. Dr Michelle Wright explains that it can affect any one of any age, including babies. Around 100,000 people in Switzerland have been diagnosed with glaucoma and the same number again have glaucoma but don’t know yet because they haven’t been tested.  

What are the risk factors?

Risk factors include advancing age, a family history, diabetes, high blood pressure, a history of migraines or myopia, and being of African or Caribbean origin.  

What is Glaucoma?

The usual cause of glaucoma is a build-up of pressure within the eye. This is because of a problem with the drainage of the fluid inside the eyeball known as the aqueous humour. This pressure build-up slowly leads to damage of the optic nerve at the back of the eye – it’s the optic nerve that connects the eye to the brain and allows us to see. It tends to be your peripheral vision that is affected first. You may also notice difficulty fixing your vision on a moving object.  

But because symptoms and reduction in vision come on slowly and gradually, many people tend to ignore them. The problem is that once visual deficits have occurred, they can’t be reversed.

Should I be screened?

Regular screening for glaucoma is recommended for anyone from about the age of 40. 

What does the check up involve?

As part of the check-up with an opthamologist, intraocular pressures are measured to screen for glaucoma. Screening may involve a number of different tests: 

  • Firstly, measuring the pressure inside your eyes using a painless test that involves blowing a puff of air at the front of your eye. 
  • A test of your visual fields to look for missing areas of vision is also carried out. 
  • And your optic nerve is examined by the eye specialist using a slit lamp (a bright light and high-powered microscope) to look into the back of your eye where the optic nerve joins. 
  • Finally, your eye may also be examined to see if there is any blockage to the drainage of the aqueous humour.  

The whole point of screening is to detect glaucoma at an early stage. That way treatment can be started before significant damage to vision has occurred.  

If glaucoma is found, eye drops are usually prescribed to reduce the pressure within the eye. Sometimes laser treatment or surgery to relieve any blockage to drainage of the aqueous humour may be suggested.  Further reading can be found here.




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