I must have been about five years old when I first heard the word “glaucoma.” My grandmother had returned from the hospital completely blind. “It was the glaucoma,” everybody said. Some decades later, I finally understood what it meant. Glaucoma is the build-up of pressure from the fluid in the eye. Untreated, it damages the optic nerve, causing loss of sight, which can never be restored. Almost 80 million people worldwide are said to suffer from the condition, and a fair proportion of them are unaware of it.
Opticians, who test eyes and prescribe glasses, are not required by law in Israel to measure eye pressure during a routine eye check. In the UK, the US and many other countries, they are. Thus it was that my own glaucoma was only diagnosed after I had already lost 80% of the sight in my left eye. Like many older people, or even as young as 40, I had assumed that the evident dimming of my vision was due to a cataract, as, indeed it was. But there was this other thing, which was only explained to me when my optician suggested I consult an eye doctor. She measured the pressure in both my eyes and promptly sent me off to a glaucoma specialist.