Glaucoma is a group of conditions caused by normal fluid in the eye that has not drained properly. This creates pressure that damages the eye’s optic nerve. This damage to the optic nerve results in changes in vision, first at the periphery and then approaching towards the center of a person’s vision. This destruction process is characterized by an increase in eye pressure that often changes gradually and painlessly.
Glaucoma is caused when pressure builds up inside the eye, damaging the optic nerve. The optic nerve connects the eye to the brain and is made of more than a million tiny nerve fibers. When pressure in the eye rises, it causes optic nerve fibers to die. It not treated in time, glaucoma can cause irreversible blindness, meaning that all the optic nerve fibers have died.
Glaucoma is difficult to diagnose as symptoms develop slowly over many years. Often patients only seek treatment when they notice they are losing their sight, which means that significant damage to the optic nerve has already occurred.
Glaucoma is diagnosed with a comprehensive eye exam. A glaucoma screening (like the air puff test during an eye exam) only checks eye pressure and is not enough to find glaucoma.
Treatment depends on the type of glaucoma a patient has, as there are different types of glaucoma. Glaucoma damage is permanent and cannot be reversed. However, medicine and surgery can help to stop further damage. Each glaucoma patient requires lifelong eye health management for best results.
Francophone Africa is frequently overlooked by international development stakeholders when it comes to restoring sight and providing quality eye care. The Organization for the Prevention of Blindness (OPC) works with local governments, civil society organizations and communities to fight blindness, restore vision, encourage local ownership of eye health care systems and ensure human right to sight.