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The Importance of an Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) Explained – Part 2

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Optic Nerve Changes and Glaucoma

The optic nerve is made of nerve fibers that travel directly from the brain. Changes in the thickness of the optic nerve have been found to correlate with glaucoma. Glaucoma can create visual field loss.

Glaucoma is one of the most common conditions affecting the optic nerve. It can be caused by high intraocular pressure. This high pressure compresses the optic nerve and damages the nerve cells. The pressure is not high enough to cause any pain, hence glaucoma has been described as the silent thief of sight.

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Glaucoma can also occur when the pressure of the eye is not elevated, but changes in the thickness of the nerve fiber layer are noted. This is called normal tension glaucoma.

OCT can directly measure the thickness of the nerve fiber layer and create a three-dimensional representation of the optic nerve. This imaging allows me to analyse and monitor changes to the retinal nerve fiber layer, detecting areas of atrophy.

Here are a few types of the many glaucoma’s:

Acute Glaucoma

This happens quickly following a sudden blockage to the flow of aqueous fluid in the eye. Vision becomes cloudy, the eye can be painful and permanent damage to your sight can occur if it is not treated quickly.

Open Angle Glaucoma

This is the most common type of glaucoma. It can develop over many years since eye pressure rises slowly and there is no pain, but the field of vision gradually starts to resemble a tunnel.

Secondary Glaucoma

This type of glaucoma is secondary to another eye condition such as an infection, inflammation, a tumour, enlarged cataract or following an eye injury. Secondary glaucoma can also occur due to medications- the wonderful cure all Prednisone being one of them.

Regular full comprehensive eye exams with digital OCT imaging are important to ensure any glaucoma is diagnosed early. Age is a non-modifiable risk factor. Treatment or a referral can then be made in a timely manner to preserve your peripheral vision.

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