This condition is associated with a slow, often barely noticeable loss of your peripheral or ‘side’ vision. At first, it does not affect your central vision, so it can be very difficult to know if you have it.
It can eventually result in tunnel vision and blindness. You should always get a 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 at least every 5 years. You are also more at risk if you have a parent with the condition, in which case you should see your eye doctor more regularly.
To understand what causes glaucoma, it first helps to understand how the eye works.
Glaucoma is a disease of 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.
Glaucoma treatments can be highly effective if used early on in the development of the disease. If caught early enough, there are several 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 check-ups.