Glaucoma is an eye condition which can lead to a loss of vision if it's not diagnosed and treated quickly. In fact, the condition is one of the leading causes of blindness around the world.
Today's article will give you an overview of Glaucoma, focusing on what the condition is, the causes, its symptoms and the treatment that is available.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a medical condition which affects your eyes. With glaucoma, the optic nerve (which connects the eye to the brain) becomes damaged due to a build-up of fluid in the front part of the eye, which increases the pressure inside the eye. According to the NHS, it can affect people of any age, but is most common in those in their 70s and 80s.
There are different types of the condition, the most common of which is known as primary open angle glaucoma. This is triggered by the drainage channels in the eye becoming gradually clogged over time. This form of the condition tends to develop slowly over a long period.
Other common types of the eye condition include:
- Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma - Caused by the drainage in the eye becoming blocked suddenly, increasing the pressure inside the eye rapidly. This form of the condition isn't that common.
- Secondary Glaucoma - This is triggered by an underlying eye condition.
- Congenital Glaucoma - Also known as childhood glaucoma, this is a rare type of the condition which occurs in young children. It is caused by an abnormality of the eye.
There a number of factors which can increase the risk of glaucoma. The main trigger point is the drainage problems which causes fluids to build up and the pressure inside the eye to build. This increase in pressure then damages the nerve that connects the eye to the brain.
Factors which can increase the chances of these drainage problems include:
- Age - The older you are, the more likely you are to be diagnosed.
- Family History - If your parents or siblings have the condition, you're more likely to be diagnosed as well.
- Ethnicity - People of African, Caribbean and Asian origin are at a higher risk.
- Medical Conditions - Other conditions such as diabetes, short-sightedness, and long-sightedness also increase the risk.
It isn't clear whether there are things we can do to absolutely prevent being diagnosed with glaucoma. However, the best thing that we can do is to look after our eyes as much as possible. Have a look at our article on the top six ways of protecting your eyes for some inspiration.
In the early stages of the condition it's unlikely that you'll notice any symptoms. Glaucoma tends to develop slowly over several years, targeting your peripheral vision first. Commonly, both eyes will be affected, although it can be worse in one eye.
Common symptoms include:
- Blurred vision.
- Seeing rainbow-coloured circles around bright lights.
- Red eye.
- Eye tenderness.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Intense eye pain.
If you're having issues with your eyes you should book an appointment with your optician. Glaucoma can often be detected during a routine eye test (which you should have at least every two years), sometimes before any symptoms begin to show.
Several tests can be carried out to check for the condition, such as measurements of the pressure inside your eye. If the tests are positive, you will be referred to a specialist eye doctor to discuss your treatment options.
It's important that you seek treatment quickly, as without it, glaucoma can eventually lead to blindness. It's also not possible to reverse any vision loss that occurred before the condition was diagnosed.
The treatment you receive will depend on the type of glaucoma you have. Options include:
- Eye Drops - Used to reduce the pressure in your eyes.
- Laser Treatment - Used to open the blocked drainage tubes or to reduce the amount of fluid being produced.
- Surgery - Done to improve the drainage of the fluid in your eye.
You may also need regular appointments to monitor your condition and check the treatment is working.
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Editor's Note: This article was updated on 1st November 2021 to reflect current information.