January is national glaucoma awareness month – an important time to raise awareness of one of the leading causes of blindness in the UK. The World Health Organization estimates that sixty million people worldwide have glaucoma, although almost half of them do not realise they have it.
Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it is permanent. As much as forty per cent of vision can be lost without a person noticing, hence the importance of regular eye examinations to preserve vision.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma describes a group of eye conditions that often affects both eyes when the drainage area of the eyes become slightly blocked preventing the eye fluid from draining, thus causing intraocular pressure (IOP) to increase above the normal range. This pressure can then damage the optic nerve, which carries over 1 million nerves from the eye to the brain, resulting in irreversible vision loss.
There can be no symptoms of glaucoma in adults until sight has deteriorated significantly, reinforcing the importance of regular eye tests to detect this serious condition. However, in some cases symptoms can vary from intense pain, redness of the eye, headache, tender eye area, seeing rings around lights and misty vision to quick loss of vision. These symptoms may not be constant, so if you are unsure, make an appointment to see your eye doctor or optometrist as soon as possible.
There are several types of glaucoma:
- Chronic open-angle glaucoma – the most common type of glaucoma which develops very slowly.
- Primary angle-closure glaucoma – the rare form of glaucoma which can occur slowly (chronic) or may develop rapidly (acute) with a sudden, painful build-up of pressure in the eye.
- Secondary glaucoma – this occurs as a result of an eye injury or another eye condition.
- Developmental glaucoma (congenital glaucoma) – a rare but serious form of glaucoma which is usually present at birth or develops shortly after birth. It is caused by an abnormality of the eye.
Risk Factors – Are You At Risk of Glaucoma?
- Age – people aged sixty years and over are more at risk of glaucoma than younger age groups.
- Ethnic origin – people of African or Afro-Caribbean origin are at increased risk of developing the condition. People of Asian origin are also at increased risk of developing acute angle-closure glaucoma.
- Short-sightedness (myopia) – people who are short-sighted are more likely to develop chronic open-angle glaucoma.
- Ocular hypertension (OHT or raised pressure in the eye) – people with OHT are at increased risk of developing chronic open-angle glaucoma.
- Family history – if glaucoma is present within your immediate family you are of greater risk of developing the condition.
- Diabetes – people with diabetes have an increased risk of developing glaucoma.
As glaucoma develops slowly, it is important to have regular eye examinations where your optometrist can carry out several different tests for the condition, such as:
- Eye Pressure Test
- Central Corneal Thickness Test
- Visual Field Test
- Optic Nerve Assessment
There is no cure for glaucoma to date; however glaucoma treatments generally work by lowering the pressure inside the eye so that no further damage to the optic nerve occurs. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease.
Exeter Eye is a specialist ophthalmic eye clinic treating all eye conditions and offering the very best in patient care and comfort. We always ensure we fully understand your condition and lifestyle before identifying your treatment options and then help you choose the best one for you.
Treatment options to help reduce intraocular pressure within the eye include:
- Eye Drops
- Laser Treatment
It is important to remember that while there are many effective glaucoma treatments available, you must take your treatment as advised and have regular check-ups.
For more information or to discuss glaucoma, make an appointment with one of our eye specialists today. Simply fill out an enquiry form or call Exeter Eye on 01392 699969.