Open angle glaucoma is known as “the silent thief of vision”. It is painless and usually develops gradually, without any symptoms until it becomes very advanced. It can cause irreversible visual impairment and, if untreated, it can eventually lead to blindness.

Introduction

The term open-angle refers to the “drainage angle at the front of the eye between the outer edge of the iris and sclera.

The highest risk factor for someone to develop glaucoma is raised pressure in the eye. Normally, there is a balance between the amount of fluid produced inside the eye and that draining from the eye into the bloodstream. The fluid passes through a mesh formed of cells and connective tissue. In glaucoma, this mesh, called the ‘trabecular meshwork’ gets partially blocked and the fluid can’t drain away properly, which results in a build-up of pressure. The reason why the trabecular meshwork becomes blocked isn’t always clear.

The increased pressure in the eye can damage the optic nerve at the back of the eye. The optic nerve is the communicating cable between the eye and the brain, so any damage to it causes visual impairment. Glaucoma usually affects both eyes. However, it can often progress more quickly in one eye than in the other.

Introduction

The term open-angle refers to the “drainage angle at the front of the eye between the outer edge of the iris and sclera.

The highest risk factor for someone to develop glaucoma is raised pressure in the eye. Normally, there is a balance between the amount of fluid produced inside the eye and that draining from the eye into the bloodstream. The fluid passes through a mesh formed of cells and connective tissue. In glaucoma, this mesh, called the ‘trabecular meshwork’ gets partially blocked and the fluid can’t drain away properly, which results in a build-up of pressure. The reason why the trabecular meshwork becomes blocked isn’t always clear.

The increased pressure in the eye can damage the optic nerve at the back of the eye. The optic nerve is the communicating cable between the eye and the brain, so any damage to it causes visual impairment. Glaucoma usually affects both eyes. However, it can often progress more quickly in one eye than in the other.

Normal Tension Glaucoma

In most glaucoma cases, the pressure in the eye is increased, but about 1 in 5 people with glaucoma have normal eye pressures. This is called normal pressure glaucoma. In this condition the optic nerve is damaged by relatively low eye pressures. It is possible that their optic nerves are sensitive even to modest pressure. Other medical conditions such as low blood pressure or vitamin deficiencies can contribute to this type of optic nerve damage.

Ocular Hypertension

On the other hand, some people have an increased eye pressure with no damage to the optic nerve. Raised eye pressure without glaucoma is called ocular hypertension. This puts you in a higher risk for developing glaucoma and you may need treatment to reduce the eye pressure.

Who Develops Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is fairly common and usually affects people over the age of 50. It is rare at the age of 40, only affecting about 1 in 300 people. By the age of 70, about 1 in 33 people in the UK have glaucoma.

You are more at risk if you:

  • Have a family history of glaucoma.
  • Are very short sighted.
  • Have diabetes.
  • Are of African or Afro-Caribbean origin.
  • Are older.

Who Develops Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is fairly common and usually affects people over the age of 50. It is rare at the age of 40, only affecting about 1 in 300 people. By the age of 70, about 1 in 33 people in the UK have glaucoma.

You are more at risk if you:

  • Have a family history of glaucoma.
  • Are very short sighted.
  • Have diabetes.
  • Are of African or Afro-Caribbean origin.
  • Are older.

Why Doesn’t Glaucoma Cause Symptoms?

During the early stages of glaucoma, the first part of the vision to go is the outer (peripheral) field of vision.  We don’t notice this loss because most of us look through both eyes. One eye is compensating for the areas the other eye cannot see, so we continue to see a complete picture until both eyes are badly affected. The brain is also very good at making up for missing objects in the world.  A great simulation of this is shown below.  Just slide the bar from left to right.

This is why screening for glaucoma is very important. Getting tested is simple and painless.  Optometrists are able to perform baseline tests, detect any changes and refer you to me for a specialist opinion. 

glaucoma visionNormal

DRAG THE SLIDER TO COMPARE VISION WITH & WITHOUT GLAUCOMA

glaucoma visionNormal

DRAG THE SLIDER TO COMPARE VISION WITH & WITHOUT GLAUCOMA

Diagnosing Glaucoma

After a detailed clinical examination by myself, my experienced team will perform the required special diagnostic tests, which include a visual field test, a special camera-like scan of the back of the eye and measurement of the thickness of your cornea. I am practicing in selective private eye centres in the region that are equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic instruments, so that I can diagnose and monitor glaucoma with precision. 

You will be informed of the cost of these tests in advance. Private medical insurance usually covers the tests, but obviously this can vary according to the individual terms and conditions. 

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What is the Treatment for Glaucoma?

The main treatment for glaucoma aims at lowering your eye pressure. If your eye pressure is lowered, further damage to the optic nerve is likely to be prevented or delayed. Unfortunately, there is currently no treatment to restore any damage that has already occurred, hence the need for early detection and appropriate treatment.

Treatment involves the use of drops, laser or surgery and usually is very successful at stopping the progression of glaucoma and preventing loss of vision.

SLT

Read about the laser treatment for glaucoma that could mean you don’t need to use drops again.

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