Glaucoma: don’t stop using your eye drops!
Glaucoma is a disease in which the pressure of the fluid in the eye is too high, and if left untreated over time, it can cause progressive damage to the nerves as they enter and leave the back of the eye, leading to peripheral vision loss and eventually to blindness. In general, the higher the eye pressure, the more rapid the nerve damage and vision loss.
Glaucoma causes no symptoms at all in the early stages and can only be diagnosed by your eye doctor, who measures the eye pressures, examines the nerves at the back of the eye and measures your peripheral vision with visual field tests.
Everyone over 40 should have a yearly eye examination for this reason, and you should start earlier if you have a family history of the disease, especially if the onset was early in your family.
Because glaucoma causes no symptoms, it can be a challenging disease to treat … there is little incentive for you to use the eye drops we prescribe, except because we ask you too! So you have to have absolute trust in your doctor, and a clear understanding of what the condition is, what the drops are for, and what they can do and what they cannot do.
All glaucoma drops, like other drugs, have a lifespan. The effect of some lasts for 8 hours, others for 12 and some for 24. It is very important that you put the drops in as often as prescribed, or the eye pressures can drift up again in between treatments.
Sometimes the drops can cause side-effects, and it is important that you communicate this to your doctor, as it is difficult to motivate yourself to put drops in your eyes that are causing problems, when previously you had none. We can usually find another type of glaucoma drug that suits you better.
A recent publication in the journal Ophthalmology has shown an significant correlation between adherence to topical medication for glaucoma and the progression of visual field loss. In other words, if you take your glaucoma drops as prescribed every day, and come for your regular check-ups to make sure they are working, you don’t lose any more vision over time than the usual age-related decline. If you miss your drops occasionally, you lose peripheral vision a bit faster. And if you miss your drops a lot, you lose vision a lot faster.
It can be difficult to motivate yourself to continue using a treatment that does not make your eyes feel better, that may make them look or feel worse, and for which you cannot see or feel the benefit for yourself.
But if you are struggling with this, please let us know. There may be other treatments like laser or surgery that we can use instead of drops. Whatever you do, please don’t fudge – let us know if you are having trouble remembering your drops or feeling motivated to use them, so we can work together to manage your glaucoma.
At present, we are being asked to defer non-urgent appointments like checkups for glaucoma, so we can keep you safe at home from the risk of being infected with Coronavirus.
This should be fine if your glaucoma has been stable for two years or more and you have not needed a change in treatment in that time. But if we have changed your treatment recently, or if you are having any eye problems, please come and get your eye pressure checked. It can drift up without you realising and cause damage that could otherwise have been prevented.
Whatever you do, please don’t stop taking your eye drops during this time. If you are running low and having no other problems, please call us and we can send a prescription to your local pharmacy.
And if you are having any problems with your eyes at all, please call and let us know. If you are worried about catching the virus, we can arrange to see you at the beginning or the end of the day so you are not exposed to other patients. Our always meticulous cleanliness, care, attention to detail and infection control is even more particular these days. Our rooms are light and airy with plenty of space and we can take great care of you here.
Please don’t sit at home worrying about whether you should come in or not. Just pick up the phone and call us on 02 6687 2433 and we will be happy to help you.
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