Skip to main content

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause progressive damage of the optic nerve at the point where it leaves the eye to carry visual information to the brain. If left untreated, most types of glaucoma progress (without warning nor obvious symptoms) towards gradually worsening visual damage and possible blindness. This damage is mostly irreversible, and this has led to glaucoma being described as the “sneak thief of sight”.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, yet 90% could have been prevented.  9 million people all over the world are blind from it. Because there are not symptoms in its early stages, up to 50% of affected persons in developed countries don’t know that they have glaucoma and are not receiving treatment. This number is up to 90% in less developed parts of the world.

There are several types of glaucoma. Some may occur as a complication of other visual disorders (“secondary” glaucoma’s) but most of them occur without a known cause. It was once believed that the cause of most or all glaucoma’s was high pressure inside the eye (known as intraocular pressure – IOP). But even people without a high IOP may have glaucoma. Some forms of glaucoma may occur at birth (“congenital”) or during childhood and infancy (“juvenile “). In most cases, glaucoma appears after 40 years and its frequency increases with age. Men and women are affected equally.

The most common type of adult-onset glaucoma is primary open angle glaucoma (POAG). It is found mostly in people of African descent.

There is no cure for glaucoma as yet, and vision loss is irreversible. However, medication and surgery (traditional or laser) can halt or slow-down further vision loss. Therefore, early detection is important to limit visual impairment and prevent progression towards severe visual handicap or blindness. That is why it is important to detect glaucoma in its early stages and your doctor can advise you on the best course of action.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide,

yet 90% could have been prevented.

9 million people all over the world are blind from it.

What Can You Do to Prevent Glaucoma?

Currently, regular eye exams are the best form of prevention against significant glaucoma damage. Early detection and careful, lifelong treatment can maintain vision in most people. In general, a check for glaucoma should be done:

  • before age 40, every two to four years
  • from age 40 to age 54, every one to three years
  • from age 55 to 64, every one to two years
  • after age 65, every six to 12 months

Anyone with high risk factors should be tested every year after age 35. Those at higher risk include people of African descent, people with diabetes, and people with a family history of glaucoma. You are at increased risk if you have a parent or brother or sister with glaucoma. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are key to glaucoma prevention. While there are no known ways of preventing glaucoma, blindness or significant visual loss from glaucoma can be prevented if the disease is recognized in the early stages. The vision loss is silent, slow, and progressive. It usually affects side vision first (peripheral vision) and as it progresses, central vision is lost.
Glaucoma medications slow the progression of glaucoma by reducing high IOP to prevent damage to the optic nerve. Surgical treatments are also available.

Benefits of Exercise

A regular program of exercise will benefit your overall health, and studies have shown that moderate exercise such as walking or jogging three or more times every week can have an IOP lowering effect. The benefits from exercise last only as long as you continue exercising; this is why moderate exercise on a routine basis is recommended.

Protect Your Eyes

Eyewear is important when engaged in sports activities or construction work. Eye injuries can result in traumatic glaucoma or secondary glaucoma, so protecting your eyes from injury is another way to prevent glaucoma.