Eye Health

Updated 27 January 2014

Glaucoma in a nutshell

Glaucoma can occur in one of two forms: acute or chronic.

Glaucoma is an eye disorder where abnormally high pressure inside the eye due to too much liquid (known as aqueous humor) in the eyeball, damages the optic nerve at the back of the eye. This damage can lead to loss of your peripheral vision, and eventually to blindness. It is important to treat glaucoma as early as possible.

Chronic glaucoma is more common and progresses slowly and “silently” over years. When you first recognise symptoms of chronic glaucoma, the damage to the optic nerve may be very advanced.

  • Sudden, severe, deep pain in one eye affecting the whole side of the head. The severe pain can cause nausea and vomiting.
  • Partial loss of vision
  • Coloured haloes are seen around bright lights.
  • The pupil does not constrict in response to shining a light into it.
  • Treat this as an emergency. If the pressure in the eye is not reduced within hours with specific eye drops and other medication, permanent loss of vision can occur. When the pressure has dropped, emergency surgery must be performed to prevent the pressure from building up again. Treatment is usually successful if the problem is caught early enough.

  • You are over 50 years of age;
  • You have a blood relative with glaucoma;
  • You are severely short-sighted, or
  • You ever had a blow to the eye.

Useful resources:
South African Optometric Association
Tel: 011 805 4517
Retina South Africa
Tel: 011 622 4904
South African National Council for the Blind 
Tel: 012 452 3811
Ophthalmological Society of South Africa


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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