Glaucoma is a common condition in the UK, with around 480,000 people suffering from the most common form, but because it progresses slowly, many people don’t recognise the early symptoms. With National Glaucoma Week coming up, we thought it would be a good idea to share what we know about the condition, so you can spot it early.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a condition in which the optic nerve becomes damaged, usually because fluid in the eye cannot drain properly, leading to increased pressure inside the eye.
There are four types of glaucoma:
- Primary open angle glaucoma
- Primary angle closure glaucoma
- Secondary glaucoma, in which glaucoma is caused by other eye problems, includive uveitis, eye injury or certain medications or operations
- Childhood glaucoma. This is very rare, as most glaucoma sufferers are in their 70s and 80s.
Because it is very slow to develop, and doesn’t tend to exhibit early signs, glaucoma can be hard to catch. That’s why it’s imperative to have regular eye check-ups as glaucoma is often only diagnosed as a result of these.
The main symptom of glaucoma is a loss of peripheral vision, but it can also cause:
- Intense eye pain
- Tenderness around the eyes
- Seeing rings around lights
- Blurred or double vision.
It’s usually the case that both eyes are affected, although often one is worse. If left untreated, glaucoma will lead to blindness in around 32% of people.
What can you do?
Unfortunately, there is no real way to prevent glaucoma, but knowing whether or not you’re at risk may help you catch it before it progresses any further. Regular eye check-ups will ensure your optician spots it as quickly as possible, but it’s also worth being aware of the following risk factors:
- Age – glaucoma is more likely to affect people as they get older, and the most common type affects around 1 in 10 over 75s
- Ethnicity – those with African, Caribbean and Asian roots are at a higher risk
- Family history – glaucoma seems to have a genetic link, so if a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, has the condition, you’re more likely to develop it as well.
Treatment usually depends on the type of glaucoma you have. The most common form is usually treated with eye drops as a first resort and laser treatment or eye surgery may be necessary if drops don’t work. The other types usually require immediate surgery and treatment in hospital, in order to remove the underlying cause, such as fluid build-up.
As always, if you have any concerns about glaucoma or your eye health it’s important to seek advice from an optician, ophthalmologist or your doctor.