Glaucoma is an eye condition where the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, becomes damaged. It often affects both eyes, usually to varying degrees. It is estimated that more than 600,000 people in England and Wales are affected by the condition, with many more unknowingly living with the eye condition.
What is glaucoma?
The eye contains a fluid called aqueous humour, which is constantly produced by the eye, with any excess drained through tubes. When the fluid cannot drain properly, a buildup of pressure is caused known as intraocular pressure.
It develops when the increased pressure damages the optic nerve and the nerve fibres from the retina.
There are several different types of glaucoma:
- Primary open angle glaucoma – the most common type which develops slowly over many years. It’s caused by the drainage channels in the eye becoming gradually clogged over time
- 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
- Childhood glaucoma – a rare type that occurs in very young children, caused by an abnormality of the eye
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
To begin with glaucoma doesn’t usually have symptoms. It is a condition that tends to develop over many years eventually affecting the peripheral vision. Many people don’t realise they have condition, it is often only noticed during a routine eye test.
However, symptoms that do occur might include blurred vision or seeing rainbow coloured circles around bright lights.
Occasionally, it can develop suddenly and cause:
- Intense eye pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- A red eye
- Tenderness around the eyes
- Blurred vision
- Seeing rings around lights
How can glaucoma be treated?
Unfortunately it is not possible to reverse any loss of vision that occurred before glaucoma was diagnosed, but treatment can help stop vision worsening.
Recommended treatment depends on the type of glaucoma:
- Eye drops – to reduce the pressure in your eyes
- Laser treatment – to open up the blocked drainage tubes or reduce the production of fluid in your eyes
- Surgery – to improve the drainage of fluid