Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye conditions in which the optic nerve (the nerve at the back of the eye) is damaged – often due to raised pressure within the eye. This leads to a reduction in the field of vision and the ability to see clearly. In most cases glaucoma sufferers will experience no symptoms until significant damage has occurred. Glaucoma affects people of all ages and is the second leading cause of blindness in the world.
There are four main types of glaucoma:
Although anyone can develop glaucoma, there are certain groups of people who are at greater risk. It’s much more common in people aged 40 and over, and the risk increases with every decade of life. Those with a family history of glaucoma are also more likely to develop the condition, as well as those from a certain ethnic group (e.g. African-Caribbean people). People who are diabetic or very short sighted are also more likely to develop glaucoma.
Whatever your risk, it’s crucial that you have regular eye tests to ensure any abnormalities which could signify glaucoma can be spotted as early as possible. To aid detection of glaucoma, the College of Optometrists recommends an eye examination every two years, or more frequently if there is a family history of the condition.
A pressure reading of 21 mmHg (millimetres of mercury) or higher usually indicates high pressure in your eye.
Most new cases of glaucoma are identified through referrals from optometrists whose training equips them to recognise the early signs of the disease. There are three main eye tests that may be carried out by an optometrist to check for glaucoma:
Other instruments are now available for detecting and monitoring glaucoma but these are the most commonly used tests. At Marian Blake Opticians we offer a range of eye examination services to our patients, which enables our optometrists to identify early signs of a range of eye disorders, including glaucoma.
If your optometrist suspects glaucoma following a routine eye test, they may advise you to be referred to a GP or hospital for treatment. If detected early enough, in most cases glaucoma can be effectively treated, and blindness can be prevented. Typically, eye drops to reduce the pressure in the eye will be prescribed, although some sufferers may need an operation. The type of treatment provided typically depends on type and severity of glaucoma. Once treatment is underway, you may be referred back to your optometrist for monitoring.
Glaucoma sufferers and certain close relatives are entitled to a free eye examination provided by the NHS. Those diagnosed as being at risk of developing glaucoma are also eligible.