Glaucoma is a common eye condition where the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, becomes damaged. It’s usually caused by fluid building up in the front part of the eye, which increases pressure inside the eye. Glaucoma can lead to loss of vision if it’s not diagnosed and treated early
How can excessive eye pressure affect your sight ?
Glaucoma is usually a slowly progressive condition that damages your peripheral sight at first. There are some factors that increase the risk namely: Increasing age (it is very rare below 40), if you are significantly farsighted, if there is a direct family history of glaucoma, certain medical conditions increase the risk e.g. diabetes and taking steroid treatment. The onset of Glaucoma can be very insidious, this would be in open angle glaucoma. Closed angle glaucoma is much more sudden and virtually very painful leading to sudden vision loss.
Open angle glaucoma often takes many years to develop to a point where the patient eventually becomes aware of vision problems. It is painless and slowly restricts the peripheral vision on the nose side of an eye at first. This makes the vision loss especially insidious as the other eye covers for the loss in the initial phase of glaucoma. As a result it occurs so slowly a lot of peripheral vision can be lost before someone becomes aware that there is loss of vision. Clinically, we see a change in the appearance of the optic nerve at the back of the eye, which will also be associated with a change in the visual field. The pressure in the eye may also be raised in the region of 20 – 30 mmHg, but that is not always the case. So just concentrating on the pressure is not a wise move and a significant amount of glaucoma’s are missed if the focus is solely on eye pressure.
Closed angle glaucoma is due to the drainage of the fluid out of the eye becoming blocked or at least very compromised. The eye pressure will be very high, at least 45 mmHg. Patients with narrow angles are at risk of closed angle glaucoma. However the angle may close a bit at night time, resulting in a temporary increase in damaging pressure inside the eye. This would increase the cupping of the optic nerve and lead to eventual vision loss.
How to detect Glaucoma:
The only way to detect Glaucoma early is by someone skilled assessing your eyes, e.g. during an Optometric eye examination. During this, the back of your eyes will be assessed, including the optic nerve, as well as the pressures being measured and where appropriate, the visual fields assessed.
Glaucoma is most successfully managed if it is caught early, especially as any damage that has occurred is irreversible, therefore regular eye examinations are advised for everyone, especially if you have an increased risk.
Glaucoma can also be acute, in which case the eye pressure rises very quickly and this causes significant pain and sudden vision loss. if this is the case you need to present at A&E or our practices immediately.
Types Of Glaucoma
There are lots of different types of glaucoma.
The most common is called primary open angle glaucoma. This tends to develop slowly over many years.
It’s caused by the drainage channels in the eye becoming gradually clogged over time or the optic nerve not being able to cope with the existing eye pressure due to an ageing eye.
Other types of glaucoma include:
- acute angle closure glaucoma – an uncommon type caused by the drainage in the eye becoming suddenly blocked, which can raise the pressure inside the eye very quickly
- secondary glaucoma – caused by an underlying eye condition, such as inflammation of the eye (uveitis)
- childhood glaucoma (congenital glaucoma) – a rare type that occurs in very young children, caused by an abnormality of the eye
Glaucoma does not usually cause any symptoms to begin with.
It tends to develop slowly over many years and affects the edges of your vision (peripheral vision) first.
For this reason, many people do not realise they have glaucoma, and it’s often only picked up during a routine eye test.
If you do notice any symptoms, they might include blurred vision, or seeing rainbow-coloured circles around bright lights.
Both eyes are usually affected, although it may be worse in 1 eye.
When To See Simon Kleyn Optician - Optometrist
Make an appointment for an eye test / examination if you notice any changes in your vision. If you develop sudden vision changes, such as double vision or flashes of light, sudden eye pain, or sudden headache, call us straight away.
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