Glaucoma is a common disease of the optic nerve damage.
Glaucoma is a common condition and affects millions of people around the world. For most people glaucoma is a slow condition which affects the peripheral vision first and the central vision in the later stages of the disease. This means glaucoma sufferers don’t tend to notice any problems with their vision until the late stages of the disease. However, as treatment can only slow down or prevent further damage the early the condition is diagnosed the better chance there is of saving the vision. This is one of the reasons it is important to have regular eye tests by an optometrist as part of the routine test is looking for signs of glaucoma.
If during your routine eye test your optometrist spots signs suggestive of glaucoma he or she will refer to a specialist for confirmation of the diagnosis and a treatment plan. At Exeter Eye our experienced glaucoma specialists will perform a full assessment and, if the condition is confirmed, discuss with you the treatment options available.
Glaucoma symptoms may be difficult to spot, so it is important to know when you are at risk and what to look out for.
Glaucoma is associated with a slow, often barely noticeable loss of your peripheral or ‘side’ vision. At first, glaucoma does not affect your central vision, so it can be very difficult to know if you have it.
Glaucoma can eventually result in tunnel vision and blindness. You should get a glaucoma check-up immediately if you notice any deterioration in your peripheral vision.
Causes of glaucoma
Glaucoma damage may be caused by raised eye pressure, a weakness in the optic nerve or a combination of both.
Intraocular pressure (IOP) is the tissue pressure within the eye that allows the eyeball to maintain its shape. It is determined by the balance between the production and drainage of clear fluid inside the eye.
Obstruction of the fluid can cause an increase in the IOP, which results in damage to the optic nerve.
The optic nerve is the site where all the sensitive nerve fibres around the retina come together to send the visual signal to the brain. It is damage to this optic nerve that causes irreversible visual loss affecting the field of vision.
You may be at risk of developing glaucoma and not even know it. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and can lead to vision loss. The two key risk factors for glaucoma are elevated eye pressure and changes to the optic nerve. Other risk factors may include: family history, ethnicity, narrow angles, thin corneas, and retinal nerve fiber loss. Early detection and regular eye exams are the best ways to minimize and prevent vision loss caused by glaucoma. Don’t wait until it is too late, set up an appointment with your eye care professional today.
There are a number of different types of glaucoma which can affect the eye; these are typically classified as follows:-
- Primary Open Angle Glaucoma (POAG)
- Normal Tension Glaucoma (NTG)
- Ocular Hypertension (OHT)
- Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma (AACG)
- Secondary Glaucoma
- Congenital Glaucoma
Primary Open Angle Glaucoma (POAG)
POAG is the most common type of glaucoma. It is chronic, progressive and painless. It occurs when the drainage system that controls the flow of fluid inside the eye is defective. With POAG, the intraocular pressure inside the eye slowly rises, causing damage to the optic nerve.
Normal Tension Glaucoma (NTG)
Normal Tension Glaucoma (NTG) is defined as optic nerve damage occurring in individuals where the eye pressure is within a normal range.
Ocular Hypertension (OHT)
Ocular Hypertension (OHT) is where an individual has consistently high pressure with no sign of damage to the optic nerve. Whether treatment is required for this condition depends on a number of factors and is best assessed by a glaucoma specialist.
Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma (AACG)
AACG is a sight-threatening emergency which occurs due to sudden large rise in pressure in the eye.
This can be any kind of glaucoma, but its cause is secondary in nature; for example as a result of certain drugs such as steroids, other eye conditions such as diabetes, or trauma to the eye.
This is a rare condition caused by developmental malformation of the eyeball.
Although anybody can get Primary Open Angle Glaucoma, certain individuals carry a higher risk. These include people who:
- Are over the age of 40
- Have a family history of glaucoma – you are four times more at risk of developing the condition if a close blood relative (parent or sibling) has the condition
- Suffer from myopia or hyperopia (short/long-sightedness)
- Have blood pressure problems
- Are of African, Latino, and Asian descent
- Have diabetes
- Are regular, long-term steroid/cortisone users
Those more at risk of developing Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma include:
- Anyone with long-sightedness or hypermetropia
- Women (four times more likely)
- Anyone over the age of 50
Glaucoma treatments can be highly effective if used early on in the development of the disease. If caught early enough, there are several glaucoma treatments that can slow or even stop the disease altogether.
Initial treatments are generally in the form of eye drops which lower the intraocular pressure, although some patients opt for selective laser trabeculoplasty as a first line treatment. If you are diagnosed with glaucoma which treatment is right for you is best discussed with a glaucoma specialist.
For more advanced cases, laser treatments and a number of surgical options are available. Again what individual treatment is best for you should be discussed with a glaucoma specialist. At Exeter Eye our glaucoma specialists are experienced in a wide range of glaucoma lasers and surgeries and can guide you through the pros and cons of the options available.