Glaucoma is often referred to as the “silent vision killer” because its course is slow and nearly imperceptible, and by the time you experience the first symptoms, the optic nerve is already damaged. In daily life, the most frequent symptoms are found when:
- you experience an unusual narrowing of vision while driving, particularly when parking or performing other manoeuvres;
- you bump into objects or door jambs while walking, especially indoors.
Glaucoma leads to a gradual reduction in the peripheral field of view, resulting in what is known as “tubular” vision. The impression is that you are looking through a keyhole or a pipe.
Glaucoma affects adults between the ages of 40 and 50. With 60 million cases worldwide [Vision Loss Expert Group, 2017], it is the leading cause of irreversible blindness, second only to cataracts, which are, however, considered a reversible condition.
In its congenital forms, acute glaucoma can also affect children early in life.
Chronic simple glaucoma or open-angle glaucoma
The most common form of glaucoma is called chronic simple or open-angle glaucoma. This form is characterized by a slow, asymptomatic onset: you may not realize you have any particular complaints until the optic nerve has become irreparably damaged and vision impaired.
Acute glaucoma or angle-closure glaucoma
Acute glaucoma is less common. It appears suddenly and unpredictably with strong pain, obvious eye inflammation, and severely reduced vision, as well as symptoms not strictly related to vision, such as headaches, nausea, and vomiting.
Early detection plays a key role in slowing the course of glaucoma. Since the chronic form acts silently, it is crucial to diagnose glaucoma before you are aware of its onset.
If someone in your family has glaucoma, you should have frequent checkups.
In general, starting at age 40, you should have a complete eye examination, including the measurement of your eye pressure, at least every two years and at least every year after the age of 60.