With an estimated 600,000 people living with glaucoma in the UK alone, up to half of whom have not been diagnosed, it is vital to have regular eye examinations to prevent losing your sight unnecessarily.
Glaucoma is a condition where the optic nerve at the back of the eye is damaged either mechanically or due to poor blood supply. The eyeball contains fluid which is constantly produced and drained through tubes. When this fluid cannot be drained, pressure builds up and the optic nerve (which connects the eye to the brain) becomes damaged. This causes a reduction in field of vision and visual acuity, and ultimately leads to irreversible damage.
If detected early the condition is treatable, but many glaucoma sufferers will experience no symptoms until the damage has been done. Up to 40% of sight can be permanently lost before any symptoms are noticed. Even if you feel your ‘vision’ is fine, eye examinations are imperative to check the health of your eyes as well.
Who is at risk?
Those with a family history of glaucoma are more at risk, as are those of certain ethnic groups. The risk of glaucoma can also increase with age, if you are diabetic or very short sighted.
How do we check for glaucoma?
Glaucoma can be picked up in a routine eye examination and our Optometrists are highly trained to recognise the first signs of the condition. Tests for glaucoma include:
Ophthalmoscopy – The appearance of the optic disc is checked using an Ophthalmoscope, a special torch used to look into the back of the eye.
Visual Fields – Measuring the field of vision using small points of light to check for blind spots.
Tonometry – Measuring the pressure within the eye
Optical Coherence Topography – A 3D scan looking at the layers of the macula at the back of the eye in depth.
How is Glaucoma treated?
When detected early, glaucoma can be treated using eye drops to reduce and maintain pressure levels in the eye. In some cases, laser treatment or surgery may be required. Glaucoma is monitored with regular eye examinations, and you may be under the care of both the hospital and your Optometrist.
Those with or at risk of glaucoma, and those over 40 with a close relative suffering from glaucoma are entitled to a free NHS eye examination. We have lots of information in the practice and on our website. Please contact us if you have any questions.