January is Glaucoma Awareness month in the UK, so we thought it would be a good idea to look more closely at this eye disease which affects so many people in the UK.
Some key facts about Glaucoma:
- 80 million people worldwide have Glaucoma
- 10% of people in the UK go blind because of Glaucoma
- 500,000 people in the UK have Glaucoma: that’s 2% of everyone over the age of 40.
- Glaucoma often has no symptoms but can lead to blindness
- 50% of people with Glaucoma don’t know they have it
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the name of a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve transfers visual information from the eye to the brain; if it’s damaged, it can result in sight loss and even blindness.
The damage is often caused by a build-up of fluid in the front part of the eye, which increases pressure inside the eye. Your eye needs a certain amount of pressure to keep the eyeball healthy and in the right shape. However, if the pressure becomes too high, it can cause your optic nerve to become damaged leading to loss of vision.
Glaucoma tends to develop slowly over many years. To begin with it doesn’t usually cause any symptoms other than a gradual loss of peripheral vision. Because many people don’t realise they have Glaucoma until their sight is permanently affected, it’s known as the ‘silent thief of sight’ because once any sight is lost to Glaucoma it cannot be recovered. However, with early diagnosis, careful monitoring and the right treatment, most people retain useful sight for life.
This helpful video explains how Glaucoma may affect your vision.
The different types of Glaucoma
There are different types of Glaucoma. The four main ones are:
Primary open angle glaucoma (POAG)
Primary open angle glaucoma is the most common type of Glaucoma accounting for almost 90% of cases. It is caused when the eye’s drainage canals become slowly blocked. This results in increased eye pressure which causes damage to the optic nerve. It is a lifelong condition that develops very slowly over time.
Acute angle closure glaucoma
Acute angle glaucoma happens when the pressure in your eye rises suddenly. It’s very painful and can cause permanent damage to your sight if not treated quickly.
When Glaucoma occurs because of another eye condition, an operation, an injury or as a side effect of medication.
Congenital Glaucoma is a very rare condition that affects young babies. It’s usually diagnosed in early years and is then managed by specialist clinics.
How to diagnose Glaucoma
There are several demographic groups that are more at risk of developing Glaucoma. If you are in one of the following groups, you should make sure that you have a regular eye test every two years as early detection and treatment can help prevent further eye damage.
- Age– Primary open angle glaucoma becomes more common with age. It’s fairly rare below age 40 but rises from about two in 100 over the age of 40 to more than one in 20 for those aged 80+.
- Blood pressure– Very high blood pressure can lead to an increase in intraocular pressure. Low blood pressure can lead to insufficient blood supply to the optic nerve which can also cause problems.
- Ethnicity– People of African-Caribbean and East Asian origin are at higher risk of developing primary angle closure glaucoma.
- Family history– There is at least a four-times higher risk of developing Glaucoma if you have a close blood relative who has it. So, if you have Glaucoma, you should tell your relatives about the condition as they may need to be tested.
- Short sight– People with short sight (myopia) are at increased risk of developing Glaucoma.
- Long sight– People with long sight are at increased risk of developing primary angle closure glaucoma.
- Diabetes– People with diabetes may be at higher risk of developing Glaucoma.
All Glaucoma treatments aim to lower your eye pressure. Treatment usually starts with eye drops. For many people, who use the eye drops as prescribed and continue to have regular check-ups, this is all they need to manage their condition.
However, some people need further treatment to prevent loss of sight. This may be laser treatment or surgery. If this is the case for you, we’ll refer you to an ophthalmologist (hospital eye doctor).
If you’re concerned about Glaucoma or would like to book an eye examination, please call us on 01628 663055
For more information, here are some helpful links and guides to Glaucoma:
Glaucoma UK https://glaucoma.uk/