Glaucoma: Early Detection Matters

Glaucoma is a common eye condition which can lead to damage to the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. It is usually caused by fluid building up in the front part of the eye, which increases pressure inside the eye.

This damage can have significant effects on vision, particularly peripheral (side) vision, and may lead to severe sight impairment if left unchecked. The condition often happens in both eyes, although sometimes it affects one eye more than the other.

In recognition of World Glaucoma Day on the 12th March every year, let’s explore a condition that affects so many yet remains largely misunderstood.


Types of Glaucoma: More Than Just One

While there are several forms of glaucoma, the two main types are open-angle and closed-angle, with the former being gradual and the latter acute and often requiring immediate medical attention.

Glaucoma occurs due to a combination of genetic, environmental, and other factors leading to increased eye pressure and optic nerve damage.


Symptoms of Glaucoma: Early Detection Matters

The sneakiness of glaucoma lies in that it develops silently. Open-angle glaucoma, the type most commonly screened for, often presents no early symptoms. Your vision may seem normal until the condition progresses, sometimes leading to tunnel vision because it feels like looking down a long tube.

Closed-angle glaucoma, on the other hand, can manifest suddenly with symptoms like eye redness, severe pain, headaches, nausea, and seeing halos around lights.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you can book an emergency red eye appointment under the PEARs scheme here at EK Eyewear, or if out of hours go to your local A&E department.

Causes and Risk Factors: Knowing Your Vulnerability

Age is the largest risk factor, particularly for those over 40. Having a family history of glaucoma or being of black African or Caribbean descent also increases risk. Other factors include certain eye conditions and possibly high blood pressure and diabetes.

If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, it is important to let your close relatives know as they may be at increased risk of developing the disease.


Testing for Glaucoma: A Painless Procedure

Testing involves checking your vision, examining the back of the eye and optic nerve, assessing eye pressure, and evaluating your field of vision. Forward-thinking practices like ours, use an OTC scanner as an advanced way of examining the eyes for glaucoma.

A glaucoma test is usually part of a routine eye test. As we mentioned above, glaucoma may not have any obvious symptoms and this is why it is very important to have regular sight tests.

If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness, making early detection and treatment crucial.


Treating Glaucoma: A Range of Options

While glaucoma cannot be cured or reversed, it can be treated effectively, especially if caught early. Treatment typically involves medication, laser treatment, or surgery, with the goal of lowering eye pressure to prevent further optic nerve damage.

Frequently Asked Questions About Glaucoma

Are glaucoma and cataracts the same thing?
No, they’re not the same. While both affect vision, cataracts are a clouding of the lens in your eye, whereas glaucoma is damage to the optic nerve often due to high eye pressure.

Is glaucoma preventable?
Glaucoma itself cannot be completely prevented, but early detection and treatment can prevent the progression of the disease and significant vision loss.

Can glaucoma kill you?
Glaucoma itself is not fatal, but it significantly impacts quality of life and can lead to blindness if untreated.

What does a glaucoma patient see?
Patients with glaucoma often experience a gradual loss of peripheral vision, eventually leading to tunnel vision.

What should glaucoma patients avoid?
Glaucoma patients should avoid any medication that may increase eye pressure and protect their eyes from excessive strain. Things like taking regular screen breaks, wearing sunglasses to block UV light and practising good lighting to avoid eye strain will all help.

Can young people get glaucoma?
While less common, young people can develop glaucoma, often due to an underlying condition or injury.

Is glaucoma painful?
Open-angle glaucoma is not typically painful. Closed-angle glaucoma can be painful and is considered a medical emergency.

Can glaucoma make you blind?
If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness, making early detection and treatment crucial.

Can I drive if I have glaucoma?
Glaucoma can affect your ability to drive, especially as it progresses, due to the impairment of peripheral vision.


Further Support: UK Resources

The Glaucoma UK charity offers support, information, and advocacy for those affected by glaucoma. If you live in Belfast or Northern Ireland, we provide services and testing that can help in the early detection and management of glaucoma.

On this World Glaucoma Day (12th March), we encourage you to book an eye test, even if you think your vision is fine and you don’t need glasses.

Share This Post

Read More Blogs