Glaucoma Awareness Month
Glaucoma, often dubbed the ‘sneak thief of sight' is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. It is possible to lose up to 40% of your vision as a result of Glaucoma without even noticing. A staggering four and half million people globally are estimated to be blind due to Glaucoma. With January 2017 having been recognised as Glaucoma Awareness Month, it’s a time to learn more about this prolific sight stealer - and learn how we can identify it, what it is, and importantly, where to get treatment.
What is Glaucoma?
Firstly, it’s deceptive to think of Glaucoma of one disease that needs to be managed. In reality, Glaucoma is a collective group of eye diseases. All have one element in common: the optic nerve, the important nerve connecting eye and brain and acutely important for sight, is damaged. However, there are several main types:
- 1. Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma (POAG): this is the most common type of Glaucoma which develops gradually over a period of years.
- 2. Primary Angle-Closure Glaucoma: much more rare but can develop either suddenly or slowly
- 3. Secondary Glaucoma: damage to the optic nerve caused by another condition
- 4. Normal Tension Glaucoma: damage to the optic nerve despite normal tension
- 5. Congenital Glaucoma: a rare type which is hereditary and affects children
Whilst Glaucoma has typically been linked to increased pressure in the fluid within the eye, which in turn puts pressure on the optic nerve, this is not always true.
What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
That’s the worrying thing: Glaucoma is often a symptomless condition. It is unlikely for an individual to feel or experience effects of Glaucoma until it has developed quite significantly. As there is no cure for Glaucoma, only a possible halting or slowing of progress, picking up the presence of Glaucoma before apparent symptoms is essential.
It is most common for Glaucoma to affect both eyes simultaneously, although it may be worse in one. Your first noted symptoms may include peripheral vision loss. In some sudden onset cases you may experience more marked symptoms such as pain, redness, tenderness and blurred vision.
Given the predominant lack of symptoms of Glaucoma it is essential to consider your individual risk factors.
What are the Risk Factors for Glaucoma?
Having regular sight tests is the simplest way to pick up Glaucoma in its earliest stages. Some groups of individuals are at increased risk of developing the disease:
- Ethnicity: those of African, Caribbean or Asian heritage
- Age: those aged over 60yrs
- Family History of Glaucoma
- Severe Myopia (short-sightedness)
How is Glaucoma Treated?
Once identified there are several different treatment options which aim to stop, or slow down, the progression of Glaucoma. The first line of defence is usually eye drops, and in severe cases surgery may be necessary. However, for a large number of people laser eye treatment is a valuable option.
Laser Treatment for Glaucoma
Laser treatment for Glaucoma channels a high energy beam of light into the eye, usually under local anaesthetic, in order to open the blocked drainage tubes and reduce the production of fluid (laser trabeculoplasty). It is therefore suitable for the vast majority of Glaucoma cases. Other laser treatments for Glaucoma are cyclodiode laser treatment and laser iridotomy.