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Glaucoma is an eye condition where there is damage to the optic nerve. Untreated, it can cause blindness. Several related disorders can cause this, and they are all different types of glaucoma.

In our eyes the light-sensitive layer at the back, called the retina, acts like camera film or sensor in capturing what we see. The optic nerve then sends this image to our brain, which interprets it. Think of your eyes as being like a digital camera. You take a photograph (on to the retina), then connect the camera to a computer (your brain) with a cable (your optic nerve). Then you download the image to the computer.

Glaucoma causes progressive and irreversible damage to the optic nerve. It's like cutting the cable that connects the digital camera to the computer. Unfortunately, once it's damaged the optic nerve can't be repaired.

Glaucoma is often detected during routine eye examinations, and if it's caught early it can be treated so you don't lose your sight.

Written by Canterbury optometrists. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Ophthalmology, Canterbury DHB. Page created March 2015.

In this section

About glaucoma

How do I know if I have glaucoma?

How is glaucoma treated?

Living with glaucoma

Page reference: 114674

Review key: HIGLC-114674