Let’s discuss Glaucoma

It is world Glaucoma Awareness week this week and I thought it would be a good opportunity to explain a little about Glaucoma and why it is important to keep on top of check-ups.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases when the optic nerve – which is the nerve that connects your brain and your eye to each other – is damaged by the pressure of the fluid that resides in your eye. This causes gradual loss in peripheral vision.

The damage may be caused because the pressure is higher than normal or because the nerve is more susceptible to damage from pressure. This may only affect one of your eyes but can affect both.

The two main types of Glaucoma are chronic Glaucoma and Acute Glaucoma.

Chronic glaucoma- this is the more common type of Glaucoma. This is the slow burning type of glaucoma that anyone can develop. The early stages of chronic glaucoma do not cause symptoms so the best way to catch it early is having regular eye examinations.

The risk of developing chronic Glaucoma increases if you

  • Are aged 40 years and over
  • Are very short sighted
  • Are of African or Caribbean origin
  • Are closely related to someone with chronic glaucoma
  • Have raised pressure within your eye (Ocular hypertension (OHT) )

If the optometrist suspects you may have glaucoma he or she will refer you to an ophthalmologist. If you have chronic glaucoma you will be given eye drops to use every day to help reduce the pressure and help control the build-up of fluid. They do not hurt or sting in any way. You will not feel different in any way, you may not be able to tell the treatment is working. It is very important that you go to all your follow up appointments and keep using the drops you have been prescribed.

There is no cure for chronic glaucoma but it can be treated effectively, normally with eye drops and in some cases an operation may be suggested to drain the fluid. Any existing eye damage will probably be permanent but if you stop using the drops your eye sight could deteriorate.

Acute Glaucoma- This a type of glaucoma where the drainage channels in your eye become blocked or damaged in some way. This causes the pressure in the eye to increase rapidly.

People who are more likely to get acute glaucoma are

  • People aged 40 or over
  • Women
  • People of East Asian or South Asian origin
  • People with a family history of closed-angle glaucoma
  • People who are long-sighted

Sometimes the pressure increase can come and go and some people suffer with short bursts of pain and/or discomfort and blurred vision. This can happen when your pupils get bigger – for example at night or in a dark area like the cinema or when you are reading. Other symptoms are an ache in the eye which comes and goes, redness in the eye and seeing coloured rings around white lights. Hazy or misty vision is also a symptom.

If you get one or more of these symptoms it is really important to act quickly, even if the symptoms go away as your vision may get damaged each time the symptoms occur.

If one of your parents, children, brother or sister has glaucoma and you are 40 years and over the NHS will cover the cost of your eye examination.  At our practise we also have the OCT  (Optical coherence tomography) machine. This machine will take a painless 3D scan of your eye and can measure numerous features at the back of the eye and facilitate early diagnosis of glaucoma. Furthermore, it can enable close monitoring year by year so the optometrist will be able to see even the tiniest of changes at every examination. This part of the test has a small charge as it isn’t NHS funded.

If you are concerned about any of these issues raised then please don’t hesitate to pop in to the practise where we can talk in better detail and book you in for your test.

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