Patients diagnosed with glaucoma are managed with an emphasis on comprehensive communication to ensure successful long term outcomes. Newly diagnosed patients are presented with a portfolio of their eye health status, encouraging understanding and involvement in their own management. The portfolio enhances monitoring efficiency and facilitates communication between other eye health care providers for the patient.
Glaucoma is a slowly progressive disease of the optic nerve, leading to gradual loss in peripheral vision. Glaucoma often occurs in both eyes but is often different between eyes. The risk of developing glaucoma increases as we age. The development of glaucoma can also be associated with high pressure in the eyes, a family history of glaucoma or some eye diseases.
The only way of knowing whether or not you have glaucoma is by having your eyes tested. The majority of types of glaucoma do not have symptoms until a substantial amount of peripheral vision is lost. Rarely, the pressure inside the eye can increase substantially and rapidly; this type of glaucoma is associated with pain and a red eye. During your eye test, your eye specialist will examine the optic nerve thoroughly and measure your eye pressures. If there are any suspicions of glaucoma, your peripheral visual field will be assessed using a ‘visual field test.’ Different imaging techniques are often used to provide detailed recordings of the appearance of your optic nerves and to monitor for subtle changes over time.
If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, your eye specialist will recommend treatment and discuss a long term monitoring and management plan with you. Glaucoma cannot be cured. Treatments and monitoring are important to ensure that you do not continue to lose vision due to progression of the glaucoma.
Your eye specialist will discuss with you the most appropriate treatment for your glaucoma and its stage of progression. Commonly, treatment involves using eye drops that reduce the eye pressure. These drops do not have any noticeable effect on your vision; rather they are used on an ongoing basis to slow the progression of your glaucoma. Some people are offered a specific type of laser or other surgery to control the eye pressure.
Your eye specialist will closely monitor the progression of your glaucoma to ensure that you have the most appropriate treatment for your specific type and stage of glaucoma. Glaucoma manifests differently in different people and its rate of progression can fluctuate over time. Since progression is gradual, it is very difficult for us to detect change in our vision ourselves. Your eye specialist will ask you to repeat your visual field tests and you will have ongoing imaging of your optic nerves.