Glaucoma is an eye disease often associated with elevated intraocular pressure, in which damage to the eye nerves can cause vision loss and even blindness.
In Singapore, glaucoma is estimated to affect three per cent of the population. The eye disease will also affect more than 100 million people globally by 2040.
It may be an irreversible disease that will only worsen over time, but treatment for glaucoma can be effective in preventing blindness and reduced quality of life when diagnosed early. Screening for glaucoma is simple and can identify eyes at risk of developing glaucoma, especially with the advent of increasingly sophisticated imaging tools which have allowed ophthalmologists to accurately detect early cases of glaucoma.
For those who have risk factors including being above 60 years old, a family history of glaucoma, diabetes, previous eye injury, elevated eye pressure and the use of steroids are advised to go for an eye check, according to Assistant Professor Victor Koh from the Department of Ophthalmology at NUS Medicine. This usually includes a visual acuity check, eye pressure measurement and slit lamp examination of the eye. Further in-depth investigations such as visual field testing and optic nerve imaging may be necessary if the risk of glaucoma is considerably high.
Improvements to eye drops, lasers and surgical procedures have also allowed doctors to manage a wide spectrum of glaucoma severity with more ease. For instance, patients with early stage glaucoma are offered a range of treatment options including eye drops, prophylactic lasers and minimally invasive surgery, while more advanced cases can be treated with newer surgical implants and lasers.
Essentially, early detection and treatment remains key to preventing blindness from glaucoma, especially since it is a disease that is practically free of symptoms in the early stages.