What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma describes a group of eye disorders that result in damage of the optic nerve (which connects your eye to your brain) which leads to loss of 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.
Since in a large number of cases the patients cannot feel the pressure, and the damage is caused by a slow process, you may not realize that you have glaucoma until a lot of damage has been done. As the damage is permanent 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 examinations with an optometrist is the most effective way to ensure that no irreversible damage is done to your eye. As you get older the risk of glaucoma rises, and if somebody in your close family has already developed the disease you are at an even bigger risk. Eye tests are free under the NHS over 40 for immediate relatives of Glaucoma sufferers.
Who gets Glaucoma?
Anyone can develop glaucoma but the risk of developing this disorder goes up if you are:
- Closely related to someone who has glaucoma.
- Of African or Caribbean origin.
- Very short-sighted.
- Aged over 40.
How to detect Glaucoma?
As at the early stages of glaucoma there are no recognizable symptoms Having regular eye examinations is the most effective way to find it early. Essentially there are three kinds of tests that can reveal if you have glaucoma.
The first one involves 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. Photographs may also be taken of the nerve to see if there are any changes in the future.
In the case of the second test the optometrist measures the pressure inside your eye. It can be done either by gently blowing a puff of air at your eye or by using eye drops to numb the eye, and then gently pressing an instrument called a tonometer against it. The tests are completely painless, although the puff of air may make you jump a bit.
The last form of glaucoma testing is done by a field test, meaning that the optometrist tests how far you can see on the sides of your vision when you are looking straight ahead. If your vision is very blurry in the peripheries of your eyesight, that can also be a sign of glaucoma.
At an eye examination the optometrist will do at least two of these three tests.
What to do if somebody has Glaucoma?
If your optometrist suspects that you may have glaucoma, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist for further examinations. If it turns out that you do have glaucoma, you will be given eye drops which you have to use every day. They reduce the pressure, help control the build-up fluid and are completely painless.
Although you will not feel different in any way, it is essential to continue the use of eye drops and to go to your follow-up appointments in order to avoid getting worse. The ophthalmologist may advise you to have an operation to help drain away the excess of fluid, but it only happens in a small number of cases. Even though there is no cure for glaucoma, usually it can be treated effectively with eye drops, but the damage that has already been done is irreversible. Therefore, it is essential that you have your eyes tested on a regular basis. While using the eye drops, most people with glaucoma lead perfectly normal lives.
If you are a relative of someone with glaucoma, why not book your eye test at McConnell Optometry?