What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that result in damage of the optic nerve which causes loss to the 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.
The damage is caused by a slow, painless process. Thus, you may not realize that you have glaucoma until a lot of damage has been done. As the previous state of your vision cannot be restored, it is of vital importance that the disease is caught early. Regular eye tests with an optometrist is the most effective way to make sure that no permanent damage is done to your eye. Eye examinations are free under the NHS over 40 for immediate relatives of glaucoma sufferers.
Who can get glaucoma?
Anyone can develop glaucoma but the risk of developing this disease is higher if you are:
- Closely related to someone with glaucoma.
- Of African or Caribbean origin.
- Very short-sighted.
- Aged over 40.
How to spot glaucoma?
At the early stages of glaucoma there are no perceptible symptoms, so having regular eye tests is the most effective way to find it early. There are three kinds of tests that can reveal the disorder. It can be done by the examination of the nerve at the back of your eye for which the optometrist uses an ophthalmoscope, or a slit lamp. The second test involves the measurement of the pressure inside the eye by gently blowing a puff of air at your eye. The third form of examination is a field test, meaning that the optometrist checks how far you can see on the peripheries of your vision when looking straight ahead. If your vision is very blurry on the sides of your eyesight, that can also indicate glaucoma.
What if I have glaucoma?
If your optometrist thinks that you are at a risk of having glaucoma, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist for further examinations. If you do have glaucoma, you will be given eye drops which you have to use every day.
Even though you may not feel different in any way, it is essential that you continue the use of eye drops and go to your follow-up appointments in order to avoid getting worse. Operation is rarely advised. Although there is no cure for this disease, usually glaucoma can be treated effectively with eye drops, but the damage that has already been done is permanent. Therefore, it is essential that you have your eyes tested on a regular basis.