Glaucoma is a condition which can affect sight, usually due to an increase in pressure within the eye.
It can affect both eyes, usually to varying degrees. One eye may develop glaucoma quicker than the other.
The eyeball contains a fluid called aqueous humour which is constantly produced by the eye, with any excess drained though tubes. When that fluid cannot drain properly and pressure builds up, glaucoma develops. This intraocular pressure can damage the optic nerve (which connects the eye to the brain) and the nerve fibres from the retina (the light-sensitive nerve tissue that lines the back of the eye).
It’s important to have regular eye tests so eye problems, such as glaucoma, can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. It can take a long time to diagnose glaucoma because it usually damages the outer edge of the eye and works slowly inwards.
You should have an eye test at least every two years or more frequently if advised by your optician.
Tests for glaucoma
There are several painless, quick glaucoma tests that can be carried out by your optician including:
• Eye pressure test (tonometry)
• Central corneal thickness
• Visual field test
• Optic nerve assessment.
Types of glaucoma
There are four main types of glaucoma:
1. chronic open-angle glaucoma – the most common type of glaucoma; develops very slowly
2. primary angle-closure glaucoma – a rare type that can either develop slowly (chronic) or at a rapid pace (acute) with a sudden, painful build-up of pressure in the eye
3. secondary glaucoma – usually occurs after an eye injury or as a result of another eye condition, such as uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye)
4. developmental glaucoma (congenital glaucoma) – a rare but sometimes serious type of glaucoma which occurs in very young children, caused by an abnormality of the eye.
Early diagnosis is vitally important – any damage to the eyes is irreversible. Glaucoma can be treated with:
• eye drops
• laser treatment
Treatment aims to control the condition and minimise future damage.
To ensure any signs of glaucoma can be detected early, ensure regular attendance at optician appointments.