What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the name of a group of eye conditions which can occur when the optic nerve (the main nerve to the eye) is damaged. This usually happens because of the build-up of fluid in the front of the eye which therefore increases the pressure inside the eye.
This optic nerve is responsible for carrying information from the eye to the brain about what is being seen from the eyes. As this nerve becomes damaged, vision becomes reduced, resulting in peripheral field loss. When left untreated, glaucoma can lead to an irreversible peripheral loss of vision.
What are the risk factors?
- Age- Glaucoma is more common as you get older
- Ethnicity- People of African, Asian or Caribbean origin are at a higher risk
- Family history- You are more likely to develop the condition if you have a parent or sibling who has glaucoma
- Short-sightedness and diabetes
Can vision loss to glaucoma be recovered?
Unfortunately, vision lost to glaucoma cannot be “cured” or recovered but with early diagnosis, monitoring and regular treatment, most people can retain useful sight for life.
How do I know that I have it? How do you test for it?
Glaucoma doesn’t usually present any symptoms until it is quite advanced. It can be detected during a routine eye test by an optometrist.
Imran Darbar, an optometrist at Broadhurst Optometrists, said: “Glaucoma progresses over a period of time, therefore, it is essential that regular eye examinations are carried out to determine if there are changes occurring indicative of glaucoma.”
(To book an eye-examination click here)
Do the tests hurt?
Your optometrist will carry out several quick and painless tests to check for glaucoma, including vision tests and measurements of the pressure inside your eye. If the test suggests you have glaucoma you will then be referred to a specialist eye doctor to discuss further treatment.
- Eye pressure test: Tonometry
An instrument called a tonometer will be used to measure the pressure inside your eye. The optometrists will put a small amount of anaesthetic and dye into the front of your eye and will use a light to gently touch the surface of your eye with the tonometer. This is the Gold Standard instrument used to measure the intraocular pressure.
- Visual field test
A visual field test will be carried out to check for missing areas of vision. You will be shown a series of light spots and asked to press a button to determine which ones you can see. The test will help to see what appears in your peripheral vision which is generally the first area that is affected by glaucoma.
- Optic nerve assessment
This test determines whether or not your optic nerve is healthy. This can be carried out by using equipment such as Optical Coherence Tomography or Optomap which are used to scan the eyes, creating a very detailed image of the back of the eyes to enable your optometrist to check for any abnormalities.
If glaucoma is identified during your eye test, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist for further tests.
Eye drops are the main form of treatment for glaucoma. There are many different types of eye drops and they work by reducing the pressure in the eyes.
There are other options which can be recommended if eye drops don’t improve your symptoms which include laser treatment and surgery. For more information about this, click here
Click here for a first-hand account on what it is like to live with glaucoma. Jill Aldred and Helen Brazier were both diagnosed with glaucoma in their 40s and have personal experience of various treatments.