Glaucoma is the third most prevalent cause of global blindness, accounting for over 5 million blind. It is common in Western Countries; the estimated prevalence of primary open angle glaucoma rises from a total prevalence of 1.1% to approximately 3% of our population as it ages. Ethnicity affects both the risk of developing glaucoma and the outcome. It is an expensive disease both to detect and to treat. Recent scientific advances include elucidation of the genetic mechanism behind the disease and the study of haemodynamic and biochemical co-factors in the development of glaucomatous optic neuropathy, particularly in relation to the pathogenesis of normal tension glaucoma. Several new types of topical medication have recently been developed for use in glaucoma; both the impact of these therapies and their cost effectiveness remain to be evaluated. There are widely differing regimes which effectively treat glaucoma; some ophthalmologists prefer early surgical intervention whilst others reserve surgery for relatively advanced disease. All methods of current treatment rely on the reduction of intra-ocular pressure; as yet there is no medication which has been definitively proven to be either neuroprotective or to influence favourably optic nerve perfusion. Despite this, most sufferers of glaucoma are able to lead lives of quality. Increased community awareness of glaucoma, and earlier detection of the condition, will doubtless result in decreased morbidity due to glaucoma.
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