Glaucoma is a condition in which the optic nerve at the back of the eye is damaged due to raised pressure within the eye and causes a reduction in the field of vision and reduced visual acuity.
If detected early enough glaucoma is treatable, but most glaucoma sufferers will experience no symptoms until the damage has occurred.
Who is at risk of Glaucoma?
People aged 40 and over are at an increased risk of glaucoma, with the risk increasing with age.
Those with a family history of glaucoma (close relatives) are at greater risk, as are those of certain ethnic groups.
People who are diabetic or are very short-sighted are also considered to be more prone to glaucoma.
How do we check for Glaucoma?
Most new cases of glaucoma are detected during a routine eye examination. Optometrists are highly trained to recognise the first signs of glaucoma. In addition to the eye examination the GDX Laser scanner is a highly developed scanner that can detect glaucoma in the early stages.
• Ophthalmoscopy – checking the appearance of the optic disc (where the optic nerve joins the eye) using an ophthalmoscope, a special torch for looking into the eyes.
• Visual field assessment – testing the field of vision using small points of light to check for blind spots.
• Tonometry – measuring the pressure within the eye, either using an instrument that emits a small puff of air onto the surface of the eye, or placing a probe against the eye after it has been numbed with anaesthetic drops.
How do we treat Glaucoma?
If detected early enough, glaucoma can usually be treated. In most cases eye drops to reduce the pressure in the eye will be prescribed, although in some cases an operation is needed. 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.
If glaucoma is suspected, your optometrist will advise you whether you need to be referred to a GP or hospital. 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.