What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a condition of the eye that can cause vision loss due to damage of the optic nerve. It’s usually a result of fluid build-up, which leads to increased pressure within the eye. It’s most common in older adults in their 70s and 80s, but it can affect people of any age.
It is second only to cataracts as the main cause of blindness globally and millions of people are affected. If diagnosed and treated early, the amount of vision loss can be minimised.
Types of glaucoma
There are several types of glaucoma: the most common is primary open angle glaucoma, which is when the eye’s drainage channels become blocked in a gradual process over many years.
The other types of Glaucoma are acute angle closure glaucoma, which is the same process as above but the blockage happens very quickly, leading to a sudden increase in pressure within the eye.
Secondary glaucoma is caused by another underlying condition of the eye, such as inflammation, while childhood or congenital glaucoma occurs in young children as a result of an eye abnormality, though this is a rare form.
What are the common symptoms of glaucoma?
Glaucoma often affects both eyes at once, but one may be affected more quickly or more severely than the other.
There often aren’t any obvious glaucoma symptoms in its early stages, as it develops so slowly over a long time. It’s most likely to be picked up during a routine eye test.
The first symptoms you may notice are a gradual decrease in your peripheral vision, or you may experience blurred vision or rainbow circles around bright lights.
However, signs of glaucoma can also develop out of the blue, including:
- sudden and severe eye pain
- nausea and vomiting
- red eye
- blurred vision
This particular cluster of symptoms is associated with acute closed-angle glaucoma, which is a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment.
What are the causes of glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the increase of pressure within the eye, but it’s not always clear why this happens. However, there are several factors that can increase the risk of developing glaucoma:
- advanced age – it’s more ommon in your 70s and 80s
- a family history of the condition
- high blood pressure
- short-sightedness or long-sightedness
- eye trauma
- ethnicity: people of African, Caribbean or Asian descent are at a higher risk of developing the condition.
The best thing you can do is to get regular eye tests, so any signs of glaucoma can be caught as early as possible.
How is glaucoma diagnosed?
When you get your eyesight checked at an optician, the optometrist will usually offer a test for glaucoma. The examinations are quick and painless, and involve measurement of the pressure inside your eye, as well as looking at your eyeball and optic nerve for any suspect changes. If any signs of glaucoma are found, you’ll be referred to an ophthalmologist (a specialist eye doctor) to discuss any further tests or treatments.
What glaucoma treatments are available?
There are several clinical glaucoma treatments designed to lower the pressure within the eye. While these glaucoma treatments can stop or slow the disease, none can reverse the effects of vision loss. This means that any vision loss prior to diagnosis and treatment can’t be recovered, but with adequate and appropriate treatment and ongoing care, it’s possible to preserve the vision you have for life.
- Eye drops are the most common treatment, designed to reduce pressure in your eyes
- Laser treatment is designed to unblock drainage in your eyes, or reduce the production of fluid
- Surgery is used to increase drainage of fluid and reduce pressure by implanting special devices
Keeping your eyes healthy
As well as adhering to any treatment regimen prescribed by your doctor, you can keep your eyes healthy with regular exercise and a balanced diet. You should aim to wear sunglasses when out in strong sunshine and to protect your eyes during sport or manual work. Above all, have regular eye check-ups with your ophthalmologist or optician.
About Ramsay Health Care
At Ramsay Health Care we are proud to work in partnership with some of the highest qualified and experienced consultant, ophthalmologist, orthopaedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, pain management consultants and physiotherapists in the UK. Our holistic care offers you the best treatment!
At Ramsay you won’t have to wait for an appointment or for your glaucoma surgery. Your treatment may be covered by medical insurance and self-pay packages are available on request. We have first class facilities and all self-funding and most privately insured patients can enjoy our Private Patient Pledge offering exclusive benefits including superb food, a relaxing environment, priority access and appointments to suit your lifestyle. Our aim is to help you feel like a guest as well as a patient.
Please contact us for more information.