Glaucoma is one of the most common eye conditions and affects around 2 per cent of people aged over 40 years.
However it can be easily treated and managed if caught early enough. Early detection is crucial to minimise any potential sight loss. In many cases good vision can be preserved and any loss in vision can be slowed down.
There are 4 main types of glaucoma – the most widespread is chronic glaucoma. All types of glaucoma occur as a result of damage to the optic nerve which is caused by raised pressure in the eye. Pressure rises in the eye when the liquid produced by a layer of cells behind the iris cannot drain away properly or if too much liquid is produced. When the pressure increases it places a strain on the optic nerve, causing damage. Acute glaucoma occurs suddenly when there is a complete blockage of the fluid and this can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve if it is left untreated.
Other types of glaucoma include secondary glaucoma which occurs when the rise in pressure in the eye is due to another eye condition. Developmental or congenital glaucoma is also rare. This condition affects some babies and is caused by malformation in the eye.
Many people will not experience any symptoms and their sight may seem perfectly normal. This is why it is important to have regular eye tests to check for glaucoma, especially as you get older. Some people find that their vision in one eye starts to deteriorate. As the glaucoma worsens their centre of vision is the last to be affected resulting in so-called tunnel-vision. Acute glaucoma, when the fluid in the eye becomes completely blocked, can be painful as an attack comes on very quickly. There may also be nausea and vomiting.
The risk of developing glaucoma increases with age. 5% of people aged over 65 years have glaucoma. The condition can affect babies and younger people but this is rare. Some groups of people are more at risk than others. Those from African-Caribbean origin or those who have a high level of short-sightedness are more at risk. Some studies have shown that people with diabetes are also more likely to develop glaucoma.
Early detection is vital to limit and control the disease. Everyone should have regular eye tests every two years but if you are in one of the risk groups, it is even more important to have regular checks. If you have a close family member aged over 40 with the condition, that is a mother, father, sister or brother, you are entitled to a free NHS eye test every year.
Many people who are diagnosed with an eye condition such as glaucoma, fear that they will lose their sight completely. However if the condition is caught early enough there are several treatments which can be used to minimise any potential sight loss.
Treatments are effective when the condition has been detected in the early stages. All treatments reduce the pressure in the eye and can consist of eye drop tablets, laser treatment or surgery. Some treatments help to improve the blood supply to the optic nerve.
If you have glaucoma you will have to go to the hospital eye clinic for treatment and have regular check-ups with the ophthalmologist. Depending on how serious the glaucoma is you may be able to see your optician for check-ups. In some parts of the country you may be able to have your condition monitored by your local optician. When you are first diagnosed you will be told where to go for treatment and follow-up checks.
Treatments are effective when the condition has been caught in the early stages. The OCT Cirrus is an efficient system used to detect early stages of Glacouma. All treatments reduce the pressure in the eye and can consist of eye drops, tablets, laser treatment or surgery.
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT)is clinically proven to treat glaucoma by safely and effectively reducing intraocular pressure in a single, office procedure.
Many people experience a series of mild attacks where their vision seems misty with coloured rings around white lights. A severe attack can be very painful, your sight will deteriorate and you could even black out. Whether you have several mild attacks or a sudden acute attack you will need to go to the hospital straight away.
Drugs will be given to reduce the pain and pressure. If treated early, an acute attack can be brought under control and your sight will begin to return. Laser treatment or minor surgery will be needed but is not painful. It involves making a small hole in the outer border of the iris (the coloured part of the eye) to relieve the blockage and allow the fluid to drain away. The ophthalmologist may advise treatment in the other eye to prevent the condition developing in both eyes.
Acute glaucoma needs immediate treatment in a hospital. Drugs will be given to reduce the pain and pressure. Laser treatment or minor surgery will be needed but is not painful.
The ophthalmologist may advise treatment in the other eye to prevent the condition from developing in both eyes.
Chronic glaucoma is one of the main types of the condition. For chronic glaucoma eye drops are usually prescribed to begin with. It is imperative that patients continue to use the eye drops every day even if their vision seems good. A patient’s sight may appear normal but it could be getting worse without them noticing. According to the RNIB many patients with glaucoma often stop taking the eye drops because they believe the glaucoma is under control. However if a patient doesn’t continue to use the eye drops as prescribed their sight may become gradually worse and they could lose their sight.
If the drops do not work sufficiently then your ophthalmologist may suggest laser treatment or a surgical procedure called a trabeculectomy which will improve the drainage of fluid around the eye.
For chronic glaucoma eye drops are usually prescribed to reduce the amount of liquid in the eye and improve drainage. It is imperative that patients continue to use the eye drops even if their vision seems good.
A patient’s sight may appear normal but it could be getting worse without them noticing.
If you or a family member has glaucoma, it is important to have regular eye tests. Eye tests are not only important to detect the condition early, but to ensure the condition is controlled once it is diagnosed. The optician will be able to monitor the disease and ensure a persons vision is not deteriorating any further. Annual eye tests are available on the NHS for those with glaucoma and also for those who are aged over 40 and have a close family member with the condition – that is a mother, father, sister or brother.