Glaucoma is a serious eye condition that can cause vision loss and blindness. In glaucoma sufferers, the nerve that connects the eye and brain is damaged. High eye pressure is most often the cause of the damaged nerve.
Forms of Glaucoma
Known as the ‘silent thief of sight’, there are two kinds of glaucoma - open-angle and acute-angle closure glaucoma. The open-angle type is the most common and is dangerous because it shows no signs until permanent loss of vision has occurred. Peripheral vision is lost usually in both eyes and sufferers have blank spots and tunnel vision. The only way to pick up the condition early is to have an eye check every two years.
Acute-angle closure glaucoma has noticeable sudden symptoms and is a medical emergency. The damage to the eye occurs fast, so immediate assessment and treatment are required to reduce the impact of the attack.
- Pain in either eye
- Blurred vision
- Red eyes
- Halos around lights
- Nausea and vomiting with pain in eyes
- Visual disturbance
- Fixed dilated pupil
It is estimated that 90% of new cases of glaucoma are open-angle and 10% are closed-angle.
Increased Risk of Glaucoma
You are most of risk of developing glaucoma if you are:
- Over the age of 50
- Have a family history of glaucoma
- Increased eye pressure
- Medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure
- Asian or African descent
- Current or previous prolonged use of cortisone
- Previous eye injury
Assessment & Treatment
Direct relatives of glaucoma sufferers have a 1 in 4 chance of developing glaucoma, so they are usually recommended to begin eye checks from the age of 35. People with other increased risks should start checks from the age of 40, and those with no known risk factors can begin from the age of 50. A number of genes have been identified through research as being linked to childhood and adult-onset glaucoma.
During an early eye check, an optometrist may perform tests to gain baseline measurements. These baselines are used to monitor for changes over the years.
Tests for glaucoma include a check of your peripheral vision, photographing your optic nerve head, assessment of your retinal nerve fibre layer and anterior chamber angle and an intraocular pressure measurement.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for glaucoma, but treatments can stop or slow the further loss of vision. Treatments can include medications, eye drops, laser treatment and surgery.
If you are concerned about your risk of glaucoma or any other eye problems, see your GP or optometrist.
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