Glaucoma is an eye condition which is characterised by damage to the optic nerve, caused by high pressure inside the eye. This is usually because the eye's fluids cannot drain properly and put physical pressure on the nerve. Over time, this can lead to severe vision loss, and in fact, it is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. This short guide aims to give you some essential information about glaucoma and why you should get regular check-ups with an eye doctor.
Who is most at risk for glaucoma?
As with most conditions, certain groups of people are more at risk for developing glaucoma. Risk is increased for people over 40, people who also suffer from diabetes, people with eye tumours, trauma or injuries, or those who take corticosteroids regularly. There is also a higher risk for those who have a family history of the condition.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
One of the reasons glaucoma is so dangerous is that there are often no symptoms, meaning that many people lose vision before being diagnosed. This is why it is so important to see an eye doctor regularly. The exception is the rarer condition of acute angle closure glaucoma, which can cause red eyes, blurred vision and headaches.
How is glaucoma diagnosed?
As alluded to above, the only real way that glaucoma can be diagnosed is by an eye doctor, usually during your regular eye exam. Every time you get an exam, your eye doctor will check the pressure in your eye, and they can also look at your optic nerve to check for damage. They will also check whether your vision has been affected and whether your cornea is healthy. This means that it is incredibly important to get regular eye tests, especially if you are in a high-risk group.
What treatment is available for glaucoma?
While damage to the optic nerve is generally irreversible, there are things you can do to lower the pressure in your eye, and therefore prevent further damage. Treatment usually starts with eye drops, and this is often the only treatment that is required. However, there are surgical options that focus on draining fluid from the eye that you can discuss with your doctor if necessary.
Glaucoma is a serious condition that can lead to vision loss, but as there is so much that can be done to prevent further loss, getting diagnosed early is vitally important. Make sure that you're having regular eye exams, at least every five years up to the age of 65, and then every one or two years.