Glaucoma is often called the sneak-thief of sight.
To understand why it helps to know how the eye works.
Light travels through the cornea or window of the eye and is focused by the lens onto the retina at the back of the eye.
The retina sends the image to the brain via the optic nerve.
Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve in most cases through excess pressure of fluid in your eye.
This fluid is constantly flowing into and draining from your eye to maintain an even pressure but in some people this balance is disrupted by changes in your eye.
For example, the drainage system can become narrow or blocked and the pressure in your eye increases.
In most cases the increase is so gradual that you won’t notice the change.
Glaucoma causes a loss of your side vision then slowly closes into the central vision.
Any loss of vision cannot be reversed, so it is important to regularly check the health of the optic nerve and to control the pressure in the eye.
For most forms of glaucoma eye drops can control the pressure of fluid in your eye.
Laser treatment is also used to lower eye pressure but sometimes surgery may be necessary to construct a new fluid outflow drain.
All surgeries carry some risk, your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of the surgery as it specifically relates to you.
So, what happens on the day of your surgery.
A great deal of care is taken to make sure that the information about you is accurate and up-to-date.
You may be asked more than once about your medical history and what medications you’re currently taking.
Your eye will be marked to alert medical staff when preparing for your surgery.
You will need an anaesthetic. Most eye surgery is done under local anaesthetic, that is an injection or drops are used to numb the area around the eye, but first a sedative is given to help you relax.
You may feel drowsy, but you will remain conscious, however you should not see or feel anything during the operation and may not remember it either.
The surgeon uses a microscope to see in detail.
The surgery to create a new outflow drain will take about one hour.
Afterwards you’ll be taken to a recovery area where you can recover from the sedative.
An eye shield will protect the eye from accidental injury.
You may remain in hospital overnight or be discharged home.
Either way you will attend the clinic in the days following surgery.
Your vision may be blurry for some weeks after glaucoma surgery as your eye adjusts.
Recovery may take 4 weeks or longer.
Information sheets cover some do’s and don’ts while your eye recovers and on the correct way to use eye drops.
Even where surgery is successful eye drops may be used daily to maintain good eye pressure.
The success of glaucoma surgery is not easy to predict, it depends on whether the newly created drain remains open, in some cases your natural healing process may heal over the drain and further surgery will be necessary.
The Sydney Eye Hospital performs thousands of sight saving surgeries each year.
The hospital is supported through the fundraising initiatives of the Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation in the interests of quality eye care for all.