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Glaucoma is a serious affection which is often caused by a high intraocular pressure damaging the optic nerve. We speak about a high intraocular pressure above 21mm Hg (the normal pressure is between 12 and 20mm Hg). Nevertheless between 5 and 10% of the glaucoma cases have an intraocular pressure below 21mm Hg (so called low tension glaucoma). In addition pressures above 21mm Hg do not necessarily produce damage to the optic nerve(ocular hypertension). Together with the intraocular pressure, other factors such as vascular factors play a role in the pathogenesis of glaucoma.
The affection of the optic nerve and the loss of visual fibres produce a shrinking of the visual field and in an ultimate stage total visual loss. The first signs are vague and the patient normally does not realize about the lack of vision until it is to late. This is the reason why from 40 years on it is important to regularly control the intraocular pressure by your ophthalmologist (every 3 years). This is the only way to detect a possible glaucoma and to start a correct treatment .
2% of the overall population above 40 years have glaucoma; above
70 years this incidence rises to 5%; and from 80 years on the incidence can be as much as 10%.
Certain families are more touched by glaucoma than others. Other risk factors are myopia, diabetes and arterial hypertension or hypotension, migraine or general vascular problems.
Even though glaucoma can be a serious affection, it can always be perfectly treated. The glaucoma treatment consists essentially in avoiding the progression of the disease. Normally the treatment is performed with eye drops. These drops have to be used one or twice a day in usually both eyes, according to your ophthalmologist instructions.In certain cases the drop treatment is not sufficient and a laser treatment has to be performed; this is usually done in 2 sessions per eye. Finally, the cases not responding to drops or laser treatment, have to be operated. This operation is called a trabeculectomy and is performed in a one-day clinic under local anaesthesia.