5 frequently asked questions about glaucoma

St Hilda’s Secondary School student Joshua Tseng has to peer closely at a computer screen to make out what is on it. Looking through his right eye is like looking through a frosted pane, and his left eye can only make out shapes, colours and light.
St Hilda’s Secondary School student Joshua Tseng has to peer closely at a computer screen to make out what is on it. Looking through his right eye is like looking through a frosted pane, and his left eye can only make out shapes, colours and light. He is suffering from glaucoma, an incurable condition that has dogged him since he was seven. While it can be managed with treatment, his vision has deteriorated, leaving him with only 10 per cent of his field of vision. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A new treatment for glaucoma jointly developed by the Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Eye Research Institute (Seri) may soon save those suffering from the disease the hassle of applying eyedrops every day.A drug contained in millions of tiny capsules is injected into the eyeball. These nanomedicine capsules slowly release their contents over six months.Glaucoma accounts for 40 per cent of blindness in Singapore. The number suffering from the eye disease is projected to increase by 58 per cent by 2030 in America, according to the US National Eye Institute.

Here are five things you need to know about glaucoma. 1. What is glaucoma?It is an eye disease which damages the delicate fibres of the eye’s optic nerve that carry visual impulses from the eye to the brain. This damage is caused by a build-up of pressure inside the eye, called intraocular pressure. Continued damage to the optic nerve can lead to blindness.2. What are the symptoms?Glaucoma can develop slowly, and most people do not experience early symptoms or pain. You may only realise you have glaucoma at a late stage in the disease when your vision is seriously compromised.3. Who is at risk?A person’s risk of suffering from glaucoma increases once they are older than 50.

You also have an increased risk of suffering from glaucoma if you have extreme nearsightedness or shortsightedness, diabetes and high blood pressure, are Asian or Afro-Caribbean, have a family history of glaucoma, have eye injuries or use steriods.4. How do you cure it?There is currently no cure for glaucoma, but it can be controlled through medication, laser therapy or surgery, depending on the type and severity of glaucoma.5. What is the situation in Singapore?In Singapore, 40 per cent of blindness is caused by glaucoma, according to the Singapre National Eye Centre. It affects about 3 per cent of those older than 50, and 10 per cent of those older than 70 suffer from glaucoma.feliciac@sph.com.sg