Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. Glaucoma is a common, irreversible eye condition, which doesn’t show any symptoms in its early stages. If left undetected and untreated, it can potentially cause sight loss, which is why having regular eye exams and screenings is so important.
Causes of glaucoma
Glaucoma is caused by a fluid called aqueous humour building up and increasing pressure in the eye. Usually, this fluid drains away harmlessly, but if it cannot, pressure builds and can damage the optic nerve.
Having a family history of glaucoma greatly increases your risk of developing the disease, which is why we ask about family medical history during your eye exam.
People who have conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or are short-sighted with a high prescription also have a higher chance of developing glaucoma.
The level of risk increases as you get older too, and research also shows that people of African, Caribbean, and Asian descent are at a higher risk.
Symptoms of glaucoma
As glaucoma is asymptomatic early on, by the time you start to notice changes in your vision, the condition tends to already be in its more advanced stages.
There are 2 types of glaucoma, the most common being chronic glaucoma which develops slowly over the years and is usually picked up by an eye exam before symptoms appear. It usually affects your peripheral vision first, gradually moving into your central vision.
Acute glaucoma is rarer, developing very suddenly and painfully due to a rapid increase in eye pressure, putting your eyesight at immediate risk.
Common acute glaucoma symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Eye pain
- Coloured halos appearing around lights
- Tenderness around the eyes
If you have a sudden onset of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical advice from an optometrist or doctor straight away.
Hampshire and Dorset glaucoma monitoring
We are involved in both Hampshire and Dorset (CHEC) glaucoma monitoring schemes. Your health care provider will refer you to us to undertake repeat measurements or undertake special additional measurements to assist in the monitoring or diagnosis of your condition.
During your glaucoma screening, we can use state of the art equipment to examine your eyes. This includes icare tonometry or Goldmann Applanation tonometry to measure your eye pressure, a Henson 9000 fields test to assess any loss of central and peripheral vision, anterior Heidleburg OCT scans to check your acute glaucoma risk, Heidleburg OCT of the optic nerve and posterior pole, a corneal thickness measurement, a dilated Volk slit lamp examination to examine your optic nerve, and photographs of your eyes. This assessment can take up to 45 minutes depending on the tests required.
Glaucoma and standard eye examinations
If you don’t have any symptoms and don’t meet any of the high-risk criteria, you can continue with routine eye examination every two years. Our standard eye exams already check your eye pressure, visual fields, and optic nerves so if our optometrist spots anything that could indicate the early signs of glaucoma, they may carry out extra tests and will discuss the next steps with you.
Enhanced eye examination
For extra peace of mind, you may wish to choose our enhanced eye examination. This includes OCT examination to check your acute glaucoma risk, and the presence of other eye disease such as chronic glaucoma and macular degeneration. You will have extra time to discuss the results of all these examinations, and any advice given.
Treatment of glaucoma
Like many eye diseases, it’s important to detect glaucoma early in order to treat it successfully. Therefore, we always stress the importance of regular eye examinations. If the optometrist suspects glaucoma you will be referred to an ophthalmologist. In a lot of cases, glaucoma can be treated and managed with daily eye drops.