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According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation (2020) currently more than three million people in the United States have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58% increase.

Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it’s permanent. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. Moreover, amongst African American and Latino populations, glaucoma is more prevalent. Glaucoma is 6 to 8 times more common in African Americans than Caucasians. (Glaucoma Research Foundation: 2020)

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, the health of which is vital for good vision. This damage is often caused by an abnormally high pressure in your eye. Many forms of glaucoma have no warning signs. The effect is so gradual that you may not notice a change in vision until the condition is at an advanced stage.

Because vision loss due to glaucoma can’t be recovered, it’s important to have regular eye exams that include measurements of your eye pressure so a diagnosis can be made in its early stages and treated appropriately. If glaucoma is recognized early, vision loss can be slowed or prevented. If you have the condition, you’ll generally need treatment for the rest of your life. The signs and symptoms of glaucoma vary depending on the type and stage of your condition.
For example:

Open-angle glaucoma

  • Patchy blind spots in your side (peripheral) or central vision, frequently in both eyes
  • Tunnel vision in the advanced stages

Acute angle-closure glaucoma

  • Severe headache
  • Eye pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Halos around lights
  • Eye redness

If left untreated, glaucoma will eventually cause blindness. Even with treatment, about 15 percent of people with glaucoma become blind in at least one eye within 20 years

Risk factors

Because chronic forms of glaucoma can destroy vision before any signs or symptoms are apparent, be aware of these risk factors:

  • Having high internal eye pressure (intraocular pressure)
  • Being over age 60
  • Being black, Asian or Hispanic
  • Having a family history of glaucoma
  • Having certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sickle cell anemia
  • Having corneas that are thin in the centre
  • Being extremely nearsighted or farsighted
  • Having had an eye injury or certain types of eye surgery
  • Taking corticosteroid medications, especially eyedrops, for a long time