What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a common eye condition that can be treated if caught in the early stages.

Your eyes are filled with fluid that is continually being produced and then drained. If the fluid doesn’t drain away properly then the pressure on the back of the eye builds up, causing nerve damage which leads to glaucoma. This damage might also occur if the fluid drainage and pressure is normal, but the nerves are weak.

Some groups of people are statistically more likely to suffer from glaucoma:

  • Older people - 5% of people over the age of 65 develop glaucoma.
  • People with a family history of the condition.
  • People from an Afro-Caribbean background.
  • Very short or long sighted people.

How do I know if I have a problem?

There are two types of glaucoma - chronic and acute.

  1. Chronic glaucoma is the more common type and people suffering from it often do not realise they have a problem, making it important that you have regular eye examinations, especially as you get older. Some people, however, find that their vision worsens in one eye, eventually leading to tunnel vision, as the centre of vision is the last part to be affected.
  2. Acute glaucoma is less common and can occur suddenly when there is complete blockage of the fluid. As it happens very quickly it is usually painful and may induce nausea and vomiting.

What treatment is available?

Treatment for chronic glaucoma is extremely effective when the condition is caught in the early stages. Eye drops are the most common treatment and work by reducing the amount of fluid in the eye and improving drainage. Tablets, laser treatment and surgery may also be recommended, especially if the condition is more advanced.

Acute glaucoma is serious and requires immediate treatment in hospital. Drugs will be given to reduce the pressure and any pain, and laser treatment or minor surgery will usually be required. The treatment is painless and treating both eyes at the same time is often recommended to stop the condition developing in the other eye.

How do I get help?

If you’re worried you may have glaucoma, you should visit your optician or doctor at the earliest opportunity.



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