QUESTIONS ABOUT GLAUCOMA
Glaucoma Questions & Answers
The following questions were received from Glaucoma NZ members.
My mother is sure she heard on Talkback Radio that there is a cure for glaucoma. Is this correct?
Unfortunately your mother is mistaken. There is at this time no cure for glaucoma. Damage that has occurred to the optic nerve cannot be repaired. Treatment is focused on preventing further loss. It is likely that your mother heard discussion about advances made in the treatment of a different eye condition, possibly macular degeneration.
I am a 37 year old male who does not know a lot about his biological history, so do I need to be tested for glaucoma, how much is it likely to cost and where would I go to get tested?
Glaucoma NZ recommends that everyone should have a glaucoma test at the age of 45 and every five years after that. But if there's a family history of glaucoma or if you have other risk factors you should go much sooner, and then you will be advised by the optometrist or eye specialist how often to get repeat checks. Since you don’t know your family history you would be wise to have an eye health check now. Other factors which would indicate you should go along sooner than 45 would be if you're short-sighted, or if you've had an eye injury in the past or if you take steroid medication.
I have had glaucoma for many years and now it seems I am developing cataracts. Can I have cataract surgery if I have glaucoma?
Yes you can still have successful cataract surgery if you have glaucoma. Your eye surgeon will monitor your eye pressure carefully after the surgery. It may be temporarily elevated soon after the operation. In the longer term some glaucoma patients even experience a reduction in intra-ocular pressure following cataract surgery. However it is better to have cataract surgery well before having glaucoma drainage surgery!
Why does Glaucoma NZ recommend eye examinations only every five years from age 45? I have read other recommendations suggesting every two years.
Glaucoma “screening” is a complex matter - it’s not a case of “one size fits all.” Glaucoma NZ has set a realistic, achievable target in the “45 plus 5 glaucoma eye examination”. Everyone by 45 years of age and every five years thereafter needs an eye examination because there is no other way to assess for glaucoma. If everyone had an eye examination five yearly between 45 and 60, then in addition to earlier diagnosis when glaucoma is present, people at higher risk would be identified and monitored more closely. It would be counter-productive in terms of public acceptance and private resources to recommend frequent testing to those with no risk factors at all except increasing age.
Glaucoma NZ places emphasis on assessing the risk factors for glaucoma when you have an eye examination. You will be aware of some risk factors yourself such as having a close relative with glaucoma. However, several important risk factors, such as the shape of the angle, the state of the optic disc and the level of intra-ocular pressure can only be identified by an eye examination. At that first eye check your eye health professional should assess your level of risk and tell you how often you need to be examined and why.
I saw something on TV that suggested over-the counter spectacles are harmful. Is that correct?
Glaucoma NZ is aware of many people who have presented with severe glaucoma damage after many years of purchasing “Hobby” Spectacles. The harm does not come from the spectacles but from the absence of any eye examination over long periods of time. Adults using or not using spectacles do not create permanent “harm” to their eyes. But failing to have an eye examination will allow glaucoma to blind you.