Glaucoma symptoms may be difficult to spot, so it’s important to know when you’re at risk, and what to look out for.
Glaucoma is often called the silent or sneak thief of the sight, because it affects your vision gradually, often without being noticed. If left untreated, it can eventually cause total blindness. However, with the advanced detection and treatment methods available at Eye Institute, there should be no reason for you to suffer blindness from glaucoma.
Glaucoma is associated with a slow, often barely noticeable loss of your peripheral or ‘side’ vision. At first, glaucoma does not affect your central vision, so it can be very difficult to know if you have it.
Glaucoma can eventually result in tunnel vision and blindness. You should get a glaucoma check-up immediately if you notice any deterioration in your peripheral vision. However, in its very early stages, glaucoma can usually only be detected by an eye specialist.
People aged over 40 have around a 1% chance of developing glaucoma, so everyone over 40 should be checked for glaucoma at least every 5 years. You are also more at risk if you have a parent with glaucoma, in which case you should see your eye doctor more regularly.
Causes of glaucoma
To understand what causes glaucoma, it first helps to understand how the eye works.
Glaucoma – a disease of the optic nerve
Glaucoma is caused by damage to the optic nerve. When some of the fibres that make up the optic nerve are damaged, the result is blind areas in your vision. If left untreated, more fibres become damaged, and your field of vision shrinks further, causing tunnel vision and eventually blindness.
Raised pressure inside the eye
In most cases (but not all) glaucoma is associated with raised pressure inside your eye, which damages the optic nerve.
The front part of your eye is filled with fluid. The eye stays within a normal pressure range by producing and draining this fluid at a constant rate. However, a problem with the drainage canal’can cause the pressure within the eye to increase, which can damage the optic nerve.
Types of glaucoma
There are two main types of glaucoma:
This is by far the most common form of glaucoma. It occurs gradually, and is often difficult to spot, so regular check-ups are essential.
Acute closed-angle glaucoma
This can occur when there is a sudden blockage in the drainage canals in the eye. The pressure builds up rapidly and can cause sudden blurred vision, coloured haloes around lights, headaches and severe pain. This is an emergency situation as the rapid increase in pressure can severely damage the optic nerve in just a few hours.
Glaucoma treatments can be highly effective if used early on in the development of the disease. If caught early enough, there are several glaucoma treatments that can slow or even stop the disease altogether. That’s why it’s important for everyone over 40 to see an eye specialist for regular glaucoma check-ups.