What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is often referred to as the ‘silent thief of sight’, as it causes a gradual loss of peripheral (side) vision which may go unnoticed. In glaucoma, there is irreversible damage to the optic nerve at the back of the eye, most commonly causes by a raised eye pressure. Glaucoma can be detected on a routine eye examination by looking at the optic nerve, checking the eye pressure and conducting a visual field test.


Although there is no cure for glaucoma, there are treatments which can slow or halt its progression. These treatments aim to reduce the eye pressure by either decreasing the production of fluid in the eye or increasing its outflow from the eye.

  • Eye drops are most commonly used to reduce the eye pressure. These have the benefit of being non-invasive, however they need to be continually taken to be effective. Similarly, oral medications can also be prescribed for a short period of time.

  • Laser can be used to open up the drainage pathways in the eye and reduce eye pressure. This treatment minimises the need for eye drops and can be repeated if necessary.

  • In advanced cases of glaucoma, conventional surgery or minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) can be needed to achieve a greater eye pressure reduction.


This depends on the severity of your glaucoma. In advanced cases, there may be significantly reduced peripheral vision, even encroaching on central vision. You can have a visual field test to assess your fitness to drive, as a certain amount of peripheral vision is required to hold a driver’s license.

Unfortunately, glaucoma does not have any symptoms in the early stages and may lead to some people only presenting to an eye care professional once the glaucoma is already quite advanced. Glaucoma Australia recommends that everyone aged 50 or older should visit an optometrist every 2 years in order to detect any signs of glaucoma. Those with additional risk factors, such as having a family history, are recommended to be checked every 2 years from the age of 40.

If you have a family member affected by glaucoma, you are at a much higher risk of developing glaucoma yourself. It is very important for those with a family history of glaucoma to have regular eye examinations in order to detect the condition as early as possible.

Both SLT laser and glaucoma drops are effective in reducing intraocular pressure and are appropriate first line treatments in open angle glaucoma. The decision to start with SLT laser or drops will depend on your discussion with your ophthalmologist and will be based on your preferences, lifestyle and tolerance of topical eye drop medication. If the intraocular pressure is not satisfactorily controlled with laser or drops alone, the two treatments can also be used in combination.

The intraocular pressure lowering effects of SLT laser unfortunately wear off with time. However, the treatment can be repeated if necessary.

For further information:

Glaucoma Australia – www.glaucoma.org.au