Stellenbosch University
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Eye-health: Glaucoma and what we should know
Author: Sr. Ronita February
Published: 09/03/2020

World Glaucoma Week is all about creating awareness about this disease, also known as "silent blinding disease" or the "sneak thief of sight" since glaucoma is mostly irreversible.

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve where it leaves the eye and carries information to the brain, which is vital for good vision. This damage is often caused by an abnormally high pressure in your eye called intraocular pressure. However, it is now established that even people without an abnormally high intraocular pressure may suffer from glaucoma. Intraocular pressure is considered therefore today as a "Risk Factor" for glaucoma, together with other factors such as racial ancestry, family history, high myopia and age. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60.

It is noteworthy that due to the silent progression of the disease - at least in its early stages - up to 50% of affected persons in developed countries are not even aware of having glaucoma. This number may rise to 90% in underdeveloped parts of the world.

Signs and Symptoms include:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Nausea and vomiting (accompanying the severe eye pain)
  • Sudden onset of visual disturbance, often in low light
  • Blurred vision
  • Halos around lights
  • Reddening of the eye


Some causes include a blunt or chemical injury to your eye, severe eye infection, blocked blood vessels inside your eye and inflammatory conditions.

Risk factors:

It mostly affects adults over 40, but young adults, children and even infants can have it. You are more likely to get it if you:

  • Are over 40
  • Have a family history of glaucoma
  • Have poor vision
  • Have diabetes or hypothyroidism
  • Take certain steroid medications such as Prednisone
  • Have had an injury to your eye or eyes
  • Have high blood pressure, heart disease or sickle cell anemia
  • Have eye pressure
  • Are nearsighted or farsighted


Glaucoma tests are painless and don't take long. Your ophthalmologist will test your vision.


Treatment includes surgery and/or medications. There is no cure for glaucoma as yet, and vision loss is irreversible. However, medication or surgery (traditional or laser) can halt or slow-down any further vision loss. Therefore, early detection is essential to limiting visual impairment and preventing the progression towards severe visual handicap or blindness. Your eye-care professional can detect glaucoma in its early stages and advise you on the best course of action.


CHS is able to refer Stellenbosch staff and students to Dynamic Vision in the Plattekloof Centre for the Right to Sight programme, if an abnormality in visual acuity is found.

Costs: full package R500 includes

  • R100 eye test
  • R150 frame
  • R250 single lenses​

Costs: full package for bifocal lenses R1250 includes

  • R100 eye test
  • R150 frame
  • R1000 Bifocal lenses (i.e. R500 per lens)

If you have any questions or want to speak to a doctor or nurse about glaucoma, you can contact CHS at 021 808 3494/6​