What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that result in damage of the optic nerve (which connects your eye to your brain). This causes loss to the field of vision. This disease is caused either by the pressure build-up of the fluid inside your eye, or because the nerve is more susceptible to damage from pressure.
In a large number of cases the patients cannot feel the pressure, and the damage is caused by a slow process. Thus, you may not realize that you have glaucoma until a lot of damage has been done. As the damage is irreversible and the previous state of your vision cannot be restored, it is of vital importance that the disease is spotted in an early stage.
Regular eye tests with an optometrist is the most effective way to make sure that no permanent damage is done to your eye. As you get older the risk of glaucoma grows, and if somebody in your close family has already had the disease you are at an even bigger risk. Eye examinations are free under the NHS over 40 for immediate relatives of glaucoma sufferers.
Who can get glaucoma?
Anyone can develop glaucoma but the risk of developing this disease is higher if you are:
- Closely related to someone with glaucoma.
- Of African or Caribbean origin.
- Very short-sighted.
- Aged over 40.
How to spot glaucoma?
At the early stages of glaucoma there are no perceptible symptoms, so having regular eye tests is the most effective way to find it early. Essentially there are three kinds of tests that can reveal if you have glaucoma:
First of all, it can be done by the examination of the nerve at the back of your eye for which the optometrist uses a special torch called an ophthalmoscope, or a machine called a slit lamp. Taking photographs of the nerve is also useful, because it can be checked if there are any changes in the future.
The second test involves the measurement of the pressure inside the eye. It can be done either by gently blowing a puff of air at your eye or by using special eye drops to numb the eye, and then gently pressing an instrument called a tonometer against the surface of it. The tests are entirely painless, although the puff of air may make you jump a bit.
The last form of examination is done by a field test, meaning that the optometrist checks how far you can see on the peripheries of your vision when looking straight ahead. If your vision is very blurry on the sides of your eyesight, that can also indicate glaucoma.
At an eye examination the optometrist will do at least two of these three tests.
What happens if I have glaucoma?
If your optometrist thinks that you are at a risk of having glaucoma, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist for other examinations. If you do have glaucoma, you will be given eye drops which you have to apply on a daily basis. They reduce the pressure and help control the build-up fluid inside your eye. Their use is completely painless.
Even though you may not feel different, it is essential that you continue the use of eye drops and go to your follow-up appointments in order to avoid getting worse. An operation may be advised by the ophthalmologist to help drain away the excess of fluid, but it only happens in a small number of cases. Although there is no cure for this disease, usually glaucoma can be treated effectively with eye drops, but the damage that has already been done is not reversible. Therefore, it is essential that you have your eyes tested on a regular basis. Most people with glaucoma lead perfectly normal lives while using the eye drops.
If you are a relative of someone who has already developed glaucoma, why not book your eye test at Winyates Opticians?