People aged over 40 have around a 1% chance of developing glaucoma. Everyone over 40 should go for a check-up at least every five years. You are also more at risk if you have a parent with the condition, in which case you should see your eye doctor more regularly.
Its symptoms may be difficult to spot, so it’s essential to know when you’re at risk and what to look out for.
Glaucoma is often called the silent or sneak thief of the sight because it affects your vision very gradually, often without being noticed. If left undetected or untreated, it can eventually cause total blindness.
This condition is associated with a slow, often barely noticeable loss of your peripheral or ‘side’ vision. At first, it does not affect your central vision, so it can be very difficult to know if you have it. It can eventually result in tunnel vision and blindness.
You should always get a check-up immediately if you notice any deterioration in your peripheral vision. However, in its very early stages, glaucoma can usually only be detected by an eye specialist.
To understand what causes glaucoma, it first helps to know how the eye works.
Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve. When some of the fibres that make up the optic nerve are damaged, the result is blind areas in your vision. If left untreated, more fibres become damaged, and your field of vision shrinks further, causing tunnel vision and eventually blindness.
Raised pressure inside the eye
In most cases (but not all), glaucoma is associated with raised pressure inside your eye, which damages the optic nerve.
The front part of your eye is filled with fluid. The eye stays within a normal pressure range by producing and draining this fluid at a constant rate. However, a problem with the drainage canal can cause an increase of pressure within the eye, which can damage the optic nerve.
There are two main types of glaucoma:
This is by far the most common form. It occurs gradually and is often difficult to spot, so regular check-ups are essential.
Acute closed-angle glaucoma
This can occur when there is a sudden blockage in the drainage canals in the eye. The pressure builds up rapidly and can cause sudden blurred vision, coloured halos around lights, headaches and severe pain. This is an emergency as the rapid increase in pressure can severely damage the optic nerve in just a few hours.
Glaucoma treatments can be highly effective if used early on in the development of the disease. If caught early enough, several treatments can slow or even stop the disease altogether. That’s why everyone over 40 needs to see an eye specialist for regular check-ups.
This is another term for high eye pressure or intraocular pressure. In ocular hypertension, eye pressure is higher than normal but does not cause vision loss. However, it is a risk factor for glaucoma and should be monitored by an eye specialist.
Is glaucoma curable?
Any vision damage due to glaucoma cannot be repaired or regained.
Early detection and diagnosis is the most important part of preventing glaucoma related vision loss.
With prompt diagnosis, using advanced scanning and assessment techniques, glaucoma can be successfully managed to reduce the risk of further disease progression.
Can I go blind from glaucoma?
Whilst it is possible to experience vision loss due to glaucoma, with regular monitoring of this condition by an eye specialist, this can be avoided. An eye specialist will be able to monitor subtle changes in the eye’s pressure and the appearance of the optic nerve.
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Glaucoma is a group of related eye disorders that cause damage to the optic nerve that carries information from the eye to the brain.
In most cases, glaucoma is associated with higher-than-normal pressure inside the eye — a condition called ocular hypertension. But it can also occur when intraocular pressure (IOP) is normal. If untreated or uncontrolled, glaucoma first causes peripheral vision loss and eventually can lead to blindness. Click here to read more.