I have just been diagnosed with Glaucoma!
You will usually have been recommended a course of treatment – eye drops are the most common although laser and surgery are also used.
It is important to follow your treatment plan and attend appointments, as recommended by your doctor. This is because glaucoma is a life-long, often progressive condition, and appropriate treatment can prevent vision loss.
In glaucoma, the crucial predictors for management success are medication adherence and participation in regular clinical monitoring.
You have been diagnosed with glaucoma. What can you do to maximise the chances of maintaining good vision for as long as possible?
The most important thing to do is to keep your regular appointments and follow your doctor’s instructions. Except for a few types of glaucoma, the tendency for glaucoma to cause continuing damage remains with the person for life.
Be ready for regular eye examinations
Your eye specialist or optometrist will perform regular investigations to determine if your glaucoma is getting worse. These include measuring the pressure in the eye, a test of your side vision, and an examination of the optic nerve.
Follow your treatment exactly and stick with it
The person who has a serious glaucoma, in which the optic nerve already has become damaged, must realise that they are going to have to make trade-offs. Using drops is a nuisance, but if one has the type of glaucoma that is going to get worse, and the glaucoma is being controlled with medications, either you use the drops or the glaucoma gets worse and you lose vision.
Compliance is the term for following a medication schedule as prescribed by a doctor. Persistence is the term for sticking with it. Compliance and persistence with your medication regimen is critical. After all, even the most recent diagnostic and treatment advances cannot help you if you are non-compliant. In fact, non-compliance is a leading cause of glaucoma blindness.
Ask your doctor questions
Expect answers that you can understand. Discuss your medications, possible side effects, proposed treatments, etc. Your doctor will help you understand your pressure, your type of glaucoma, and its needed treatment.
- Use your medications regularly as instructed.
- Know the names of your medicines and how often they are used.
- Inform your other doctors and health care specialists of your glaucoma. Provide them with a list of your medications.
- Agree on a certain frequency of check-ups with your doctor and stick to that schedule.
- Call your doctor if any unusual symptoms or eye problems arise.
- Discuss your glaucoma with family members and suggest that they have a check-up. Do not forget that glaucoma often runs in families.
- Join Glaucoma NZ to keep up-to-date with glaucoma information.
Whats causes glaucoma?
Glaucoma is caused when pressure builds up inside the eye, damaging the optic nerve that connects the eye to the brain. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to minimise or prevent loss of vision. The level of elevated eye pressure which causes progressive damage to the optic nerve varies between people. Some people can have high eye pressure without glaucoma (known as ocular hypertension) while other people can have normal eye pressure with glaucoma (known as normal tension glaucoma).
The eye is constantly producing a clear liquid called aqueous humour which it secretes into itself. This fluid nourishes the eye and holds the eye in shape. The fluid is then drained out through an area called the anterior chamber angle or drainage angle. If there is damage to the drainage angle, the rate at which the eye produces the aqueous humor then becomes greater than the rate the eye can drain it – causing high IOP in the eye.
This increased pressure starts to damage the optic nerve which is made up of approximately one million nerve fibres that connect the back of the eye to the brain. Damage to the cells of the optic nerve results in irreversible damage to your eyesight.
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Different types of glaucoma
There are different types of glaucoma, with a range of characteristics and causes. Some of these include: